Monday, December 21, 2020

World Trade Organization crippled

The World Trade Organization is crippled by failure to agree on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and a proposal to prevent countries from banning food exports needed for international aid emergencies.

The 180 members were also unable to choose a new director general during a three-day meeting in Geneva.

The United States has been a rebel among the ranks, refusing to co-operate with the organization and refusing to name members for disputes-settling panels, meaning that the organization can’t enforce its trade rules.

But India was the main objector to the proposal from Singapore to prevent countries from banning food exports needed for food aid programs.

Reuters news agency reports that United States Ambassador Dennis Shea, in his final major address to the organization this week, described “wide divergences among the membership” and said the WTO had underperformed.

However, critics blame the Trump administration for its difficulties, saying Washington has hamstrung the WTO by blocking the appointment of a new director-general and opposing judge appointments to its top court.

Canada has led “the Ottawa group” to agree on a disputes-settling protocol for countries other than the United States.