The head of the World Trade Organization said on Monday that he expected the coronavirus epidemic to have a ‘substantial’ impact on the global economy, but that plans for a June ministerial meeting were going ahead, a Geneva trade official said.
“The effects on the global economy are also likely to be substantial and will start to show up in the trade data in the weeks to come,” Roberto Azevedo told heads of delegations in a closed-door meeting in Geneva on Monday.
“For MC-12 we are proceeding as planned. Should the situation so demand, we will take any necessary action,” he added, referring to the June ministerial meeting in Kazakhstan.
The meeting, where member states will seek to clinch deals on agriculture, e-commerce and fisheries subsidies among other topics, is expected to have several thousand participants.
A successful outcome is considered as critical to the legitimacy and relevance of the global body after the collapse of the WTO’s dispute appeals system due to US blocking of appointments.
However, in the same Monday meeting, the chairman of the fisheries subsidies negotiations Santiago Wills said recent progress had been “insufficient” and urged members to be “flexible and pragmatic”.
The rapid spread of the new coronavirus has increased fears of a pandemic, sending global markets into a dive last week and prompting governments to step up control measures.
As of Sunday, there have been over 86,500 cases of the virus globally, the majority in China, Reuters reported. Outside of China, it has spread to 53 countries, with more than 6,500 cases and more than 100 deaths. Globally, the illness has killed nearly 3,000 people.
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