Facing “polycrisis”, WTO chief warns of rocky road to deals


World Trade Organization chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala expressed cautious optimism on Sunday that more than 100 trade ministers meeting in Geneva would achieve one or two global deals this week, but warned the path there would be bumpy and rocky.

The director-general from Nigeria said the world had changed since the WTO’s last ministerial conference nearly five years ago. r

“I wish I could say for better. It has certainly become more complex,” she told a news conference before the meeting, listing the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and major food and energy crises as pieces of a “polycrisis”.

She urged trade ministers to go the extra mile over the coming days to achieve agreements such as to reduce fishing subsidies, boost access to COVID-19 vaccines, address food security and to set a course for reform of the WTO itself.

“Let me be clear, even landing one or two will not be an easy road. The road will be bumpy and rocky. There may be a landmine along the way,” Okonjo-Iweala said, adding she was “cautiously optimistic” that the meeting would conclude with one or two deals.

She also cautioned ministers they should not expect to achieve everything on their countries’ wish lists and recognise that compromises are never perfect.

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