Washington says it sees little scope for deal-making at WTO this year – Metro US

Washington says it sees little scope for deal-making at WTO this year

FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured on the WTO in
FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured on the WTO in Geneva

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) -A U.S. delegate told the World Trade Organization on Friday that he saw “very little scope for negotiated outcomes” ahead of a major ministerial conference set for later this year, citing the difficulties of negotiating in person among the challenges.

The meeting is set to be a critical test of Nigerian director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s leadership of the global trade body, which was facing the biggest crisis in its 25-year history before she took office in March.

Its top appeals court is paralysed after Washington under former U.S. President Donald Trump blocked judge appointments, citing the need for reforms, and it has not concluded a multilateral deal for years.

The WTO’s 164 members are set to negotiate a range of topics at the meeting in November and December, the global trade watchdog’s 12th such conference, including trade and the pandemic as well as agriculture and fisheries.

“While we would like to see a successful MC12, we must be pragmatic with respect to the circumstances in which we are operating,” U.S. Charge d’Affaires David Bisbee told a members-only meeting in a statement seen by Reuters.

“There are a large number of challenging issues facing Members, these have been made all the more challenging to address due to the inability to meet in person and the absence of experts from capitals in the room,” he added.

While the United States is just one of the Geneva-based body’s 164 members which all need to agree new trade deals by consensus, in practice, it calls many of the shots. American lawyer Angela Ellard is one of four deputies of the body.

In the same speech, Bisbee repeated calls for fundamental reforms of the hobbled WTO dispute settlement system, saying the United States “will engage constructively with members at the appropriate time”.

He also welcomed members’ decision to advance negotiations on a possible patents waiver for COVID-19 vaccines. “We are in a global health crisis and need to move urgently in this area,” he said.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Andrew Heavens and David Evans)

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