WTO Members to Meet to Discuss COVID-19 Action Plan, Reforming the International Body


A group of World Trade Organization nations known as the Ottawa Group will hold a ministerial-level virtual meeting on June 8 to discuss how the 13 governments might produce a COVID-19 action plan on trade.

Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng mentioned the meeting during an online discussion last week hosted by the Washington International Trade Association. An action plan related to the pandemic would look at transparency, digital trade and trade in medical devices, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on businesses and enhancing engagement from outside the government.

The Ottawa Group formed in October 2018 in the nation’s capital to find ways to overhaul the WTO. The initiative is led by Canada and includes Australia, Brazil, Chile, the European Union, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland.

WTO Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff warned on Wednesday that a failure to overcome challenges facing the trading system could undermine social and economic gains made possible by the system following World War II.

“The next and most serious near-term challenge will be a likely series of second waves of the coronavirus with the potential for additional national restrictions placed on the availability of vaccines and pharmaceutical remedies outside of the country of invention and/or production,” Wolff said.

Any COVID-19 initiatives, most of which have been proposed by mid-size countries, that don’t get endorsed by the U.S., China and EU “might not prove reliable,” he added.