WTO says June conference 'not feasible' amid virus fear

WTO says June ministerial conference 'not feasible' amid coronavirus pandemic

A logo is pictured outside the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters. (Credit: Reuters)

The World Trade Organization said Thursday that a planned ministerial conference in Kazakhstan in June would "not be feasible" due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"It is our considered view that holding MC12 (the 12th Ministerial Conference) as previously agreed from 8-11 June will not be feasible," WTO chief Roberto Azevedo said in a note circulated to member states and sent to the media.

WTO said it had reached the conclusion after consultations with the government of Kazakhstan, who had asked that members "revisit the decision" to hold the conference in its capital Nur-Sultan in June.

The final decision will meanwhile be up to member states, and the WTO said a special General Council meeting would be held "as soon as conditions permit" to discuss "how to proceed with revised arrangements for MC12."

That could meanwhile take a while.

Earlier this week, the global trade body said it would suspend all meetings until March 20 after one of its staff members contracted the new coronavirus.

Given the worsening situation in Switzerland, where more than 800 people have been infected and four have died, that suspension could easily be prolonged.