WTO plans to do “business as usual”, despite the COVID 19 Crisis the global community is facing

150 Civil Society groups urge WTO’s DG and Member States to halt the fisheries subsidies negotiations during COVID19 and calls for WTO’s engagement in the efforts to address this crisis. 


Despite the ongoing pandemic of COVID 19 that is ravaging the world today, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is continuing to negotiate an outcome on fisheries subsidies. While Geneva, where WTO’s headquarters are located, is under lockdown and putting on hold all face-to-face meetings, WTO is willing to proceed with negotiations in the most non-transparent, non-inclusive and ad-hoc manner. 


In a letter to Roberto Azevedo, WTO’s Director-General, and to all Geneva-based missions, 150 groups supporting fishers, farmers and workers call to immediately halt this process, due to the lack of adequate consultation.

This rush to conclude the negotiations in spite of the inability to hold direct discussions, when the Nur-Sultan June Ministerial Conference has been indefinitely postponed and all our countries and their people are battling the immense challenge of COVID 19, is baffling. Moreover, since the next Ministerial is most likely to be postponed to the middle or end of 2021 there is simply no rationale for continuing with the negotiations in such a haphazard and hasty manner.”

Fisheries subsidies is a critical livelihood issue for millions especially in developing countries. An online negotiations process would further reveal the inequalities that exist not only inside countries but also among countries. The imbalances between the countries’ digital infrastructure, availability to join in and the possible miscommunication between missions and capitals under the current circumstances would expose the un-democratic manner and lack of inclusivity of this process. It would once again marginalize the concerns of the majority of WTO’s developing and least developed country members.  

Our countries would be much better served if delegates focused on domestic and global needs in fighting the COVID19 battle. In fact the WTO can actually help, for example, by easing intellectual property rules imposed through the WTO’s Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement and easing access to treatment for COVID19 affected patients”, concluded the undersigning groups


The letter is available in English, French and Spanish

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