DIRECTOR-GENERAL NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA
One of the most important challenges facing the world today is food insecurity, a crisis already affecting millions in Africa. A number of heads of state at the African Union summit underlined the growing problem of food insecurity, which is being exacerbated by rising costs for food, energy, fertilizers and other agricultural inputs.
The WTO is playing its role by adopting a binding decision at MC12 to exempt World Food Programme (WFP) humanitarian purchases from export restrictions, the Director-General told the heads of state, a move which will save the agency time and money when procuring food for vulnerable people. The WFP is currently supplying food to 44 of Africa's 54 countries.
Ministers also adopted a declaration at MC12 highlighting the importance of refraining from export restrictions and ensuring that trade in food and fertilizer flows smoothly, which would help WTO members avoid exacerbating already high food prices.
The Director-General welcomed the acknowledgement from President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia, President Macky Sall of Senegal, European Council President Charles Michel as well as others of the WTO’s successful efforts to secure a ministerial decision on waiving intellectual property protections to enable developing countries to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines and address the unequal distribution of vaccines globally.
A separate MC12 declaration on pandemic response and preparedness calls for restraint in the use of export restrictions on medical products, and for cooperation and technical support for developing and least developed countries to overcome supply constraints and build productive, scientific and technological capacity.
A new fisheries subsidies agreement concluded at MC12 will have big benefits for coastal African states by ending subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as well as those for fishing on the unregulated high seas, the DG noted. She urged government leaders to work as fast as possible to deposit their instruments of acceptance for the agreement to ensure its rapid entry into force.
A new US$20 million fund associated with the fisheries agreement will help countries that want to build capacity to better manage fish stocks in their own waters.
The Director-General urged African countries to take part in ongoing talks on making the WTO more supportive of small businesses and climate goals. On the latter, she said the UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in November would be an opportunity to showcase how trade can be a bigger part of the solution to climate mitigation and adaptation.
In concluding, the Director-General said the results at MC12 better position the WTO to support growth and development across the continent. MC12 is just one step, albeit an important one, in reforming and reinvigorating the WTO, and the organization will need the support of its African members on the long road ahead, she added.
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