New WTO body to oversee pandemic response

New Zealand Ambassador David Walker, the person designated by the President of the General Council of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to facilitate the drafting of the declaration “WTO response to the Covid-19 pandemic”, may propose the formation of a new body to coordinate and oversee the implementation of the pandemic action plan approved by WTO members.

The proposal for a separate ad hoc body to coordinate and monitor “pandemic response, preparedness and resilience” was suggested by Walker in the draft text circulated among informal negotiating groups on November 22, observers say. experts who follow developments. Once finalized, the draft text could reach the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the WTO, scheduled for November 30 to December 3, 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Trade experts believe that the suggestion of a separate body might not be welcomed by developing WTO members, as they see the General Council itself as the most appropriate place to take on these responsibilities. through a set of established rules and procedures. A new body could undermine the role of developing and least developed countries in terms of effective participation, they add.

The Pandemic Response, Preparedness and Resilience Action Plan aims to address issues related to Covid-19 and improve the future preparedness, response and resilience of the WTO and its members to any future pandemic , and guide the work of the WTO after MC12. on these topics. Walker’s draft plan of action also drew criticism from several developing and least developed countries, who point out that the language used in the draft text does not give them assurance that the plan The action will be in line with the spirit of the MC12 declaration. negotiation right now.

Walker proposes that the Ad Hoc Body for Pandemic Response, Preparedness and Resilience be established under the auspices of the WTO General Council and chaired by a head of delegation appointed by the Council. Its role will be to convene sessions until the end of 2023 to assess progress, consider issues of a cross-cutting nature in specific areas of the action plan and provide general guidance and guidance to relevant WTO bodies, including the Council for Trade in Goods. , Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade, Committee on Market Access, Committee on Agriculture, etc. The decisions made by these committees are considered extremely sensitive for developing and least developed countries as they cover topics such as food security and intellectual waiver of ownership of pandemic products.

The Ministerial Conference, which is held once every two years, is the highest decision-making body of the WTO and will bring together trade ministers and other senior officials from the 164 member countries of the organization.

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