Reforming global trade rules is tough but doable: WTO chief

December 1st, 2021

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) – The head of the World Trade Organization stressed the importance of reforming the global trade body to prevent further trade wars but warned it would be “very tough” amid high geopolitical tensions.

The 27-year-old global trade body, under pressure to prove its relevance, was due to have held a major ministerial meeting this week and a plan to update the global trade rule book was among the key topics.

However, it was postponed due to travel curbs linked to the COVID variant Omicron, further dampening already dim hopes for progress.

Asked if the WTO was capable of reform, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in an interview at the Reuters Next conference: “Absolutely. Whether it will be easy to do is another thing.”

“I think it will be very tough because of the lack of trust among members.”

The WTO’s top appeals chamber, the Appellate Body, has been disabled since 2019 when the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump blocked judge appointments.

Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters the WTO’s dispute settlement system had to be saved to prevent future trade wars, adding that Washington’s “legitimate concerns” about overreach needed to be addressed.

Describing the current atmosphere as “fraught with geopolitical tensions”, she warned of the risk of the rules-based trade system being replaced by a power-based system and said smaller countries would lose out the most from this.

“It’s absolutely important that we support multilateral trade and we don’t take it for granted,” she said.

Okonjo-Iweala, director-general since March, said she saw many opportunities for the Geneva-based trade body, including in the area of climate change such as through the development of a global carbon price.

From laying down the law on fossil fuel subsidies to promoting low-carbon supply chains, there is no shortage of ways in which the World Trade Organization could be at the forefront of the global fight against climate change.  

To watch the Reuters Next conference please register here: https://reutersevents.com/events/next

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Bernadette Baum)


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REUTERS NEXT- Reforming global trade rules is tough but doable: WTO chief

December 1st, 2021

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) – The head of the World Trade Organization stressed the importance of reforming the global trade body to prevent further trade wars but warned it would be “very tough” amid high geopolitical tensions.

The 27-year-old global trade body, under pressure to prove its relevance, was due to have held a major ministerial meeting this week and a plan to update the global trade rule book was among the key topics.

However, it was postponed due to travel curbs linked to the COVID variant Omicron, further dampening already dim hopes for progress.

Asked if the WTO was capable of reform, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in an interview at the Reuters Next conference: “Absolutely. Whether it will be easy to do is another thing.”

“I think it will be very tough because of the lack of trust among members.”

The WTO’s top appeals chamber, the Appellate Body, has been disabled since 2019 when the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump blocked judge appointments.

Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters the WTO’s dispute settlement system had to be saved to prevent future trade wars, adding that Washington’s “legitimate concerns” about overreach needed to be addressed.

Describing the current atmosphere as “fraught with geopolitical tensions”, she warned of the risk of the rules-based trade system being replaced by a power-based system and said smaller countries would lose out the most from this.

“It’s absolutely important that we support multilateral trade and we don’t take it for granted,” she said.

Okonjo-Iweala, director-general since March, said she saw many opportunities for the Geneva-based trade body, including in the area of climate change such as through the development of a global carbon price.

From laying down the law on fossil fuel subsidies to promoting low-carbon supply chains, there is no shortage of ways in which the World Trade Organization could be at the forefront of the global fight against climate change.  

To watch the Reuters Next conference please register here: https://reutersevents.com/events/next

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Bernadette Baum)


Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

Germany reports highest daily COVID-19 death toll for 9 months

December 1st, 2021

BERLIN (Reuters) -Germany reported the highest number of deaths from coronavirus since mid-February on Wednesday as hospitals warned that the country could have 6,000 people in intensive care by Christmas, above the peak of last winter.

The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s state infectious disease agency, reported 67,186 new cases on Wednesday, up 302 from a week ago, and 446 deaths – the highest daily figure since Feb. 18, bringing the overall death toll to 101,790.

However, the seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 fell for a second day to 442.9 people, from 452.2 people on Tuesday.

Germany’s federal and regional governments agreed on Tuesday to take action to counter the fourth wave of COVID-19, including stepping up the vaccination campaign and restricting contact, especially for unvaccinated people.

Already criticised by scientists for acting too late, the leaders agreed to take firm decisions on Thursday on proposals such as forcing customers to show proof of vaccination or recovery in shops and limiting numbers of people at big events.

Gernot Marx, president of the DIVI association for intensive care medicine, warned that the country could still have 6,000 people in intensive care by Christmas regardless of what measures are now decided by politicians.

That compares with a previous high of 5,745 coronavirus patients in intensive care on Jan. 3. Germany also has fewer beds available now due to a shortage of nursing staff.

“The situation is really becoming increasingly tight,” Marx told ZDF television, calling for the government to consider a temporary lockdown. “We need to save the clinics from collapse.”

Four people in southern Germany have tested positive for the Omicron COVID-19 variant even though they were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the public health office in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said.

Three of the infected people returned from a business trip to South Africa on Nov. 26 and Nov. 27 respectively, and the fourth person is a family member of one of the returnees. All four showed moderate symptoms.

(Writing by Paul Carrel and Emma ThomassonEditing by Kirsti Knolle and Peter Graff)


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