World Trade Organization criticized for prioritizing trade over COVID-19 intervention

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Medics in protection gear. WTO has been criticized for having their priorities wrong during this COVID-19 pandemic./COURTESY

At least 30 Developing Countries across the world have written to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) accusing the body of focusing on international trade negotiations at a time when attention needed to be directed towards public health intervention against the deadly COVID-19.

The countries including Africa group and India, have rejected WTO’s proposal to push for long-term trade talks during this time, saying it would create a dangerous distraction for many governments whose sole focus must be on countering the COVID-19.

Over 300 trade experts, NGO’s and Unions across the world, led by the NGO, Pubic Services International (PSI) have echoed these sentiments asking WTO to stop any further trade deals and negotiations until COVID-19 was contained.

“If WTO continues pushing long-term trade talks at the height of a pandemic, it will reinforce the view that many hold, that the WTO puts profits over people,” Daniel Bertossa, PSI’s assistant secretary general, said in a statement.

PSI argued that such trade negotiations would put developing countries that are in a desperate need of assistance to fight COVID-19, in situations where they will be forced into trade pacts without understanding the full impact.

“If the WTO wants to prove it is a truly inclusive and consensus-based organization, it must halt all negotiations until key stakeholders including unions, have their capacity to re-engage, and in the meantime promote policies which bolster our public health systems,” PSI’s General Secretary, Rosa Pavanelli said.

“The World Trade Organisation is doing business as usual and this is dangerous.”

So far over 265,000 people have died globally of the virus, out of 3.8 million infections, underscoring the need for a total global focus on the virus intervention.

1.3 million people have so far recovered globally.

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