WTO Ministerial Conference opens to discuss issues such as food security

The World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting opened on the 12th at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, western Switzerland, for the first time in four and a half years. The focus of the meeting was whether to reach a consensus on temporarily abandoning the patent for the new crown vaccine and canceling the fishery subsidies that have been approved to lead to overfishing of aquatic resources. The question of how to deal with the food crisis escalating due to Russia’s attack on Ukraine has also suddenly emerged.

Food shortages in developing countries are being feared due to supply difficulties in Ukraine, a major grain producer. The meeting is discussing the inclusion of a ministerial declaration that follows the WTO agreement that prohibits food export restrictions in principle. It is also expected to include a decision prohibiting export restrictions on food procurement by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) for humanitarian assistance.

In his speech, WTO Director-General Ivira called for cooperation among countries, saying that “this is the moment to show that multilateral coordination can play a role and the WTO can perform its functions to the international community.” Japan’s Deputy Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Ken Hosoda said to Kyodo News and others, “There is a root problem that the WTO mechanism cannot work properly. It is important to show that members are united and promote the system.”