The World Trade Organization faces one of its toughest times

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The World Trade Organization (WTO) is facing one of its most difficult times, the culmination of years of slide into oblivion and inefficiency. Now may be the opportunity to turn the tide and re-emerge as a champion of free and fair trade – or face an even more uncertain future, according PA.

For the first time in 4.5 years, after a pandemic pause, government ministers from WTO countries will meet for four days from Sunday to tackle issues such as overfishing of the seas, vaccines COVID-19 for the developing world and food security at a time when Russia’s war in Ukraine has blocked the export of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain to developing countries.

Faced with a key test of her diplomatic skills since taking office 15 months ago, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has in recent days expressed “cautious optimism” about the possibility of progress on at least one of four issues expected to dominate the meeting: fisheries subsidies, agriculture, pandemic response and organizational reform, spokesman Fernando Puchol said.

Diplomats and trade teams have been working ‘very long hours’ to come up with at least ‘clean text’ for a possible deal – which ministers can simply approve and not have to negotiate – on the one of those issues, Puchol told reporters on Friday.

“It’s hard to predict an outcome right now,” he said.

Some outside experts expect few outcomes from the meeting, saying the main one may simply be bringing ministers to the table.

Alan Wolff, former deputy director-general of the WTO, expressed optimism that members could do at least a few.

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