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Belize participates in 12th WTO Ministerial Conference

GeneralBelize participates in 12th WTO Ministerial Conference

By Khaila Gentle

BELMOPAN, Tues. June 14, 2022

After not being held for five years, the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is taking place in Geneva, Switzerland this month, with Belize being represented by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, and Immigration, Hon. Ramon Cervantes, and other senior officials.

According to a Government of Belize Press Office release, the conference—which runs from June 12 to 15 and is being attended by ministers from 164 member countries—comes at a “critical juncture” for international trade, as the global challenges that it faces continue to affect the cost of living for Belizeans.

Minister Cervantes addressed other attending ministers and heads of delegations, highlighting the fact that trade and the smooth functioning of the multilateral trading system continue to be challenged by climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, all of which threaten global food security.

“The WTO remains one of the most democratic Member-driven global institutions, and we must strive to make it better, and more responsive to changing global challenges,” he said.

At the conference’s opening ceremony, World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala noted that member nations have a chance “to show the world that the WTO can step up to the plate” and to show that multilateralism works.

During the four-day conference, attending member countries are expected to discuss issues such as the WTO’s reform, the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver for COVID-19 vaccines, pandemic response, fishery subsidies, agriculture, and food security.

Hon. Cervantes expressed Belize’s support for the reform of the World Trade Organization, highlighting the importance of adhering to principles of transparency, inclusiveness, consensus-based decision-making, fairness, and equity in the rights and obligations of WTO members.

“We must do our citizens justice and address a most urgent matter for economic recovery—the rise in the cost of living. Rising shipping costs have increased the cost of living in Belize, hindering our post-pandemic recovery, even though we have shown tremendous resilience in recovering from the 2020 economic fallout,” said Minister Cervantes, who urged members, particularly those from developed nations, to seek a resolution to the issue of rising shipping rates.

The World Trade Organization is the only global international organization that deals with the rules of trade between nations. Its last Ministerial Conference was held in Buenos Aires in December 2017. The conference, which is the highest decision-making body of the organization, is usually convened every two years.

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