by Emma Farge and Rachna Uppal

ABU DHABI (Reuters) – A ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) opened on Monday in Abu Dhabi in a context that is not very favorable to any major reform, according to its director general Ngozi Okonjo. -Iweala.

In his opening speech, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the atmosphere was “more difficult” than at the previous WTO conference in 2022 due to conflicts, geopolitical tensions and electoral campaigns across the world. as well as signs that global trade growth would be less robust than his organization’s own estimates.

“Let’s not pretend that this will be easy,” said Nigeria’s former finance minister.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala nevertheless invited the ministers present to “roll up their sleeves” and conclude the negotiations underway, while appearing to exclude any agreement in Abu Dhabi on a reform of the WTO appeal body, currently paralyzed by disputes between Member States.

“We’re not there yet,” she said.

Among the subjects likely to succeed, the negotiators hope in particular for an agreement on the preservation of fishing resources by eliminating certain public subsidies.

“We are not in an enchanted world there. International cooperation is in poor condition. A real success would be fishing and two or three other things,” a delegate told Reuters.

This four-day conference could validate the accession to the WTO of two new members, the Comoros and East Timor, and remove certain barriers to investments.

On the other hand, it could be more difficult to achieve an extension of a moratorium on the introduction of customs duties on digital trade, while agriculture has remained a subject of contention for decades.

(With Alexander Cornwell, written by Emma Farge, Bertrand Boucey, edited by Blandine Hénault)

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