No new date for the Conference has been set.
The WTO Director-General and the General Council Chair urged delegations to “maintain the negotiating momentum” to “close as many gaps as possible”.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has announced it will postpone the Twelfth Ministerial Conference (MC12) indefinitely. This is the second time the event has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WTO General Council reached this decision during an emergency meeting on 26 November 2021.
MC12 was scheduled to take place from 30 November to 3 December in Geneva, Switzerland. The emergency meeting was called following the announcement of travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in Switzerland and other European countries that were prompted by the identification of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus.
In light of these circumstances, “we see no alternative but to propose to postpone the Ministerial Conference and reconvene it as soon as possible when conditions allow,” said General Council Chair Dacio Castillo (Honduras).
WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala explained that travel restrictions would have made it impossible for many ministers to participate in face-to-face negotiations. She noted many delegations’ position that virtual meetings do not facilitate the interaction necessary for conducting “complex negotiations on politically sensitive issues.” Okonjo-Iweala also cited the health and safely of all MC12 participants as her priority, stating that “[i]t is better to err on the side of caution.”
The recommendations from the Director-General and the General Council Chair garnered WTO members’ unanimous support. Castillo and Okonjo-Iweala urged delegations to “maintain the negotiating momentum” to “close as many gaps as possible,” including on the WTO’s response to the pandemic and the fisheries subsidies negotiations.
MC12 was originally planned for June 2020 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Due to the pandemic, the General Council decided to postpone the event until the end of 2021 and moved it to Geneva, with Kazakhstan chairing. No new date for the Conference has been set. [WTO Press Release]