WTO members give Okonjo-Iweala urgent assignment


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: WTO boss

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: WTO boss

Agency Report

World Trade Organisation (WTO) members on Tuesday urged its director-general, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to hold talks with COVID-19 vaccine developers and manufacturers.

She is expected to urge them to scale up production.

Seven countries endorsed a document giving Okonjo-Iweala the assignment.

“The WTO should rapidly make use of its resources to the full extent to foster a prompt, pragmatic and tangible acceleration in the global response to COVID-19, and particularly the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines,” said the communication.

Dated 9 March, the document was co-sponsored by Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, New Zealand, Norway and Turkey.

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Earlier on Tuesday, Okonjo-Iweala called for action on boosting COVID-19 vaccine production in developing countries.

The WTO chief, who was until recently chair of the board of global vaccine alliance GAVI, had said health and vaccine access would be a top priority.

“The fact is that each additional day the vaccine shortage continues, people will pay with their lives,” Okonjo-Iweala said at a two-day summit focused on COVID-19 vaccine production, adding that around 130 countries were still waiting for vaccines.

She added that new vaccine manufacturing sites could be prepared in six to seven months or less than half the time previously thought.

In a sign that her ideas are gaining traction, seven of the body’s 164 members released a document on Tuesday urging her to hold urgent talks with COVID-19 vaccine developers and manufacturers on boosting production.

The WTO chief has few executive powers and members’ support is essential.

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