G20 trade ministers on Tuesday pledged to work towards fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by lifting export restrictions and making the trading system more transparent.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said his final statement, adopted after a meeting in Sorrento, southern Italy, was a sign of a return to multilateralism.
“We have to ensure that there is more circulation of vaccines and that there are production factories in developing countries,” said French trade minister Franck Riester.
WTO chief Ngoji Okonjo-Iwela said earlier this month that while more than six billion vaccine doses have been produced and administered worldwide, only 1.4 percent of people in poor countries were fully vaccinated. Whereas in rich countries it is 58 percent.
Ahead of the WTO ministerial conference to be held in Geneva from November 30 to December 3, he called on members to agree on a robust response to the pandemic based on the fair sharing of vaccines.
Another issue is getting vaccine makers to wave intellectual property rights to allow production anywhere in the world, Rister said.
G20 members also agreed on the need to reform the WTO, which the European Commission has been pushing for some time.
It supported current talks on renegotiating fishing subsidies to ensure the stability of the stock.
And they agreed on the need for stronger international regulation of industrial subsidies to ensure equal opportunity and better trade rules on agriculture.
“Many of us highlighted agricultural subsidies and agricultural market access,” the statement said.
While many countries have released subsidies to affected industries during the pandemic, not all of them have informed the WTO about all amounts paid.
Di Maio said the question of subsidies was still causing tension.
“We all agree to say that the rules of the game should be the same for all,” he said.
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