Head of WTO anticipates roadblocks as ministers negotiate trade deals

The Director-General of WTO, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala predicted a “bumpy and rocky” road as the trade body opened its highest-level meeting in 4-1/2 years. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, hopes the meeting involving more than 120 ministers from the organization's 164 member countries yields progress toward reducing inequality and ensuring fair and free trade.

Head of WTO anticipates roadblocks as ministers negotiate trade deals
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At a time when some experts question WTO's future and relevance, Director-

General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala hopes the meeting involving more than 120 ministers from the organization's 164 member countries yields progress toward reducing inequality and ensuring fair and free trade.

GENEVA (AP) — The head of the World Trade Organization predicted a “bumpy and rocky” road as the trade body opened its highest-level meeting in 4-1/2 years Sunday, with issues like pandemic preparedness, food insecurity against the backdrop of Russia’s war in Ukraine and overfishing of the world’s seas on the agenda.

At a time when some experts question WTO’s future and relevance, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala hopes the meeting involving more than 120 ministers from the organization’s 164 member countries yields progress toward reducing inequality and ensuring fair and free trade.

Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged the Geneva-based trade body needs reform. “The road will be bumpy and rocky. There may be a few landmines on the way,” Okonjo-Iweala told reporters Sunday before the opening of the four-day meeting. “We’ll have to navigate those landmines and see how we can successfully land one or two deliverables.”

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The WTO chief insisted that trade has lifted 1 billion people out of poverty, but poorer countries – and poor people in richer ones – are often left behind.

She pointed to the food emergency caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where blockaded ports have impeded exports of between 22 million to 25 million tons of grain from a key European breadbasket.