WTO pushed to facilitate shipments of Covid cargo
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is being urged to step up its role in tackling new trade barriers and providing trade facilitation for essential products to cope with Covid-19 such as vaccines, medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment.
Speaking at an online seminar entitled "Keep An Eye on WTO Reform in the New Normal Era", Supachai Panitchpakdi, the former director-general of the WTO, said the group needs to reform its work structure to increase cooperation and working relationships with other agencies such as the UN and UN Conference on Trade and Development.
The WTO should be allowed to serve as a mediator for technology transfer between developed and developing countries, especially relating to medical technologies to help combat Covid-19, he said.
According to Mr Supachai, the WTO is an important agency with a role to play in the changing trade and economic landscapes affected by Covid-19, particularly in international trade disputes.
He expects more trade opportunities will arise in the agricultural and food sectors because of trends towards food shortages in several countries, while e-commerce has a need for customer protection and equity between each platform.
The presence of a few large global e-commerce platforms with excessive trading power limits competition, said Mr Supachai.
For developing countries, he said a new approach is needed for trade and social investment to meet the pandemic's conditions.
"Countries should focus particularly on international trade cooperation and plans to push their economies forward, both during and after the pandemic," said Mr Supachai.
According to Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, the WTO's members are in intense discussions to prepare for the conclusion of the 12th Ministerial Conference to be held from Nov 30 to Dec 3 this year in Geneva, Switzerland.
The meeting focuses on fishing subsidies, the agricultural sector, e-commerce, WTO reforms, the improvement of the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism, and the WTO's participation to solve trade problems during the Covid-19 crisis.
Pimchanok Pitfield, ambassador and permanent representative of Thailand to the WTO, said WTO's director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has paid special attention in the WTO's roles in trade and healthcare, especially access to Covid-19 vaccines.