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New WTO Director-General prioritises access to vaccines, faces challenge of waiver for WTO rules

February 17, 2021: Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, confirmed as World Trade Organisation Director-General on February 15, is making her top priority ensuring the trade body does more to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

A former special envoy for the World Health Organisation on COVID-19, she called the disparities in vaccine rates between rich and poor countries “unconscionable” and urged members to lift export restrictions on medical items.

UK pressures Australia for carbon reductions in FTA talks as EU and US ponder carbon levies

February 12, 2021: Both new US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson are headlining their determination to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. But Australia’s Morrison government is declaring that it will fight any proposal to impose border carbon levies, including in the current UK-Australia and EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

Biden relents on WTO, greenlights new Director-General, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

February 10, 2021: Former US President Trump made life at the top of the World Trade Organisation hard for its former head, Roberto Azevado, who left early to take a job with PepsiCo. Then Trump blocked the appointment of his replacement, who had clear majority support. Now US President Biden has cleared the way for her appointment,

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from Nigeria, is likely be the first woman and first African to head the WTO when the post is filled later this year.

Google could use ISDS to sue Australia for millions over regulation for payment of news content

February 8, 2021: A Senate Inquiry heard last week that Google’s Singapore subsidiary could allow it to use a controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision in the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement to demand millions in compensation over proposed Australian regulation for payment of news content.

Online Action – Support TRIPS Waiver for COVID-19 pandemic NOW!

February 2, 2021: The next round of World Trade Organisation TRIPS Council negotiations on improving access to vaccines for low income countries by waiving certain intellectual property (IP) rules during the COVID-19 pandemic will take place this Thursday, February 4.

The proposal initiated by India and South Africa is now being officially co-sponsored by Eswatini, Kenya, Mozambique, Pakistan, Mongolia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Egypt.  

WHO calls for urgent response to production failures for COVID-19 vaccines

February 1, 2021: World Health Organisation Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a briefing on January 29, “If we hoard vaccines and we are not sharing, there will be three major problems. One, I have said it, it will be a catastrophic moral failure and two it keeps the pandemic burning and three very slow global economy recovery”.

Biden block of Keystone XL Pipeline exposes ISDS threat to other government actions on global warming

January 27, 2021: Incoming US President Joe Biden has cancelled a vital permit for the environmentally contentious Keystone XL pipeline proposed to take Canadian tar sands to refineries in Texas. This decision to protect the environment could trigger a compensation claim under Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS.

Unequal COVID-19 vaccine distribution is a humanitarian crisis and an economic loss for rich countries

January 25, 2021: The Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce has commissioned a team of economists affiliated with Harvard University, the University of Maryland and Istanbul’s Koc University, to examine trade data across 35 industries in 65 countries, which explores the economic impacts of unequal COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

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