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WTO ministerial conference kicks off against backdrop of global instability

World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks at a WTO summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024.   -  
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Jon Gambrell/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

United Arab Emirates

The world Trade organization (WTO) ministerial conference kicked off in Abu Dabi on Monday (Feb. 26).

The member nations will discuss issues such as banning subsidies contributing to overfishing and digital taxation, against the backdrop of instability and the uneven recovery from the pandemic.

The outcome of the deliberations of the WTO's topmost decision-making body will be closely watched.

Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala warned of the daunting task ahead.

"Let's not pretend that any of this would be easy. If we thought the world looked tough in May 2022, when we were slowly emerging from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine had taken food and energy security. We are in an even tougher place today," the Nigerian said.

"Looking around uncertainty and instability everywhere. Geopolitical tensions have worsened. Conflict has spread, as we see here in the Middle East and away from the headlines across parts of Africa and the Arab world. We must not forget the conflict in Sudan, which has displaced close to 8 million people internally and across borders, or the conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo."

The WTO's General council chairperson emphasized the urgency of the gathering.

Athaliah Lesiba stressed the need for collective action amidst economic uncertainties and geopolitical tensions.

Lesiba underscores the importance of steering the WTO towards effectively addressing contemporary challenges.

The Director noted the adverse impact of war.

"Higher prices for food, energy, fertilizer and other essentials continue to weigh on people's purchasing power, fueling political frustration. Shipping disruptions in vital waterways like the Red Sea and the Panama Canal, a new source of delays and inflationary pressure, offering a real time reminder of the risks posed to global trade and output by security problems and the climate crisis."

Elections are schedule this year across more than 50 countries.

The outcome of these deliberations and elections are set to significantly influence the trajectory of the WTO and the global economy, underscoring the importance of proactive and collaborative efforts to navigate the challenges ahead.

The biennial meeting will end on February 29 in the United Arab Emirates.

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