DIRECTOR-GENERAL NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA

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Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic was reversing years of progress on poverty reduction, she said the group could play a valuable role in helping the WTO contribute to accelerating vaccine production and roll-out, and better prepare for future health crises.

The Director-General emphasized that the WTO needed to reach meaningful agreements by the 12th Ministerial Conference at the end of November. She called for the fisheries subsidies negotiations to be concluded by mid-year, and for progress on agriculture and dispute settlement.

In her remarks, the Director-General said:

“We must find a pathway for each and every WTO Member to have access to affordable and equitable vaccines and medical goods in the current and future crises. Steps to boost manufacturing capacity and improve access to technology and knowhow in developing countries are clearly part of this — so is continuously incentivising innovation and R&D efforts.

“We need to deliver results from our negotiations beginning with fisheries subsidies. Twenty years is enough. We should aim to conclude the negotiations by the middle of the year. Now is when we need the political will of each and every Member to get this done.”

The Director-General also said that advancing discussions on services domestic regulation, e-commerce, micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and the environment would show that the WTO can usefully address issues relevant to current business practice and political priorities. She noted that complementary action would be useful to address the digital divide and support the building of regulatory capacity in developing countries.

The virtual gathering of the group’s 14 members was chaired by Canada’s Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, Mary Ng. The Ottawa Group describes itself as a small, representative group of WTO members that supports reforms to address challenges placing stress on the multilateral trading system

DG Okonjo-Iweala is also continuing to meet individually with ministers and ambassadors from members from all regions and levels of development to understand their priorities and explore ways forward on different issues.

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