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‘Damage Control’ Mode for WTO as Abu Dhabi Agenda Disintegrates

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As the World Trade Organization (WTO) gathers in Abu Dhabi for its biennial conference, surging nationalist sentiments and geopolitical tensions cast doubt on the future of global trade.

The future of global fish stocks, rules governing digital trade, and guaranteeing food security are among the important topics on the schedule. However, it appears difficult to secure significant agreements given the growing division among member nations and the aggravation of economic fragmentation due to the Ukraine conflict.

The WTO’s capacity to enact new trade regulations may be further hampered by the lack of significant progress made during the 13th Ministerial Conference, which could result in increased costs and trade obstacles.

Previously a fervent advocate of the World Trade Organization, the United States now doubts the WTO’s efficacy, especially in light of China’s adherence to trade regulations. The trade practices of the former president Donald Trump remain unsettling, and he has threatened to impose more tariffs if he were to run for office again.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is confident in the organization’s significance despite this uncertainty. Though there are signs of hope in the negotiations on digital trade bans and fishery subsidies, there are still obstacles to overcome, such as restoring the Appellate Body and meeting India’s requests for food security.

Pharmaceutical corporations are adamantly opposed to talks about abandoning intellectual property rights for Covid-19 therapies, which emphasizes the intricate relationships at work.

Although the addition of new members is encouraging, doubts remain over the WTO’s capacity to adjust to changing conditions surrounding international trade.

The globe nervously watches the meeting, hoping for breakthroughs that could lead to a more equitable and stable future for global trade.

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