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WTO delays 12th conf. over virus variant

GENEVA, Nov 27 (KUNA) -- The World Trade Organization (WTO) has decided to postpone its 12th ministerial conference that was scheduled to take place between November 30 and December 3 due to the outbreak of a fresh strain of the novel Cornanvirus.
In a statement, the WTO said it had to make the decision after an outbreak of a particularly transmissible strain of the COVID-19 virus led several governments to impose travel restrictions that would have prevented many ministers from reaching Geneva.
Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was quoted as saying that the travel constraints meant that many ministers and senior delegates could not have participated in face-to-face negotiations at the Conference. This would render participation on an equal basis impossible, she said.
She pointed out that many delegations have long maintained that meeting virtually does not offer the kind of interaction necessary for holding complex negotiations on politically sensitive issues.
"This has not been an easy recommendation to make. But as Director-General, my priority is the health and safety of all MC12 participants, ministers, delegates and civil society. It is better to err on the side of caution," she said, noting that the postponement would continue to keep the WTO in line with Swiss regulations.
This marks the second time that the pandemic has forced a postponement of the 12th Ministerial Conference. The meeting was originally due to take place in June 2020 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday designated a new coronavirus strain detected in South Africa as a "variant of concern", prompting countries around the world to impose travel restrictions. (end) ta.mt