WTO says disparities in vaccine rates can hit economic rebound

World Trade Organisation Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks during a press conference remotely on the annual global WTO trade forecast in Geneva March 31, 2021. — Salvatore Di Nolfi/Pool pic via Reuters
World Trade Organisation Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks during a press conference remotely on the annual global WTO trade forecast in Geneva March 31, 2021. — Salvatore Di Nolfi/Pool pic via Reuters

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GENEVA, July 30 — The World Trade Organization on Thursday warned that global disparities in coronavirus vaccine rates could impact worldwide economic recovery.

“World trade and output have recovered faster than expected since the second half of 2020 after falling sharply during the first wave of the pandemic,” World Trade Organization chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said while presenting a semi-annual report on the state of world trade.

“The WTO’s most recent forecast expects the volume of merchandise trade to increase by 8 per cent in 2021 and 4 per cent in 2022,” she said.

Okonjo-Iweala said “trade performance is diverging significantly across regions, with unequal access to Covid-19 vaccines a major factor in the disparities”. 

“This is especially true for low-income countries, where barely over 1 per cent of their populations has received even one dose,” she said.

“Failure to ensure global access to vaccines poses a serious threat to the global economy and to public health”.

The International Monetary Fund also sounded a similar warning on Tuesday, saying “vaccine access has emerged as the principal fault line along which the global recovery splits into two blocs”.

The WTO chief said that despite the value of global merchandise trade shrinking by around 8 per cent in 2020, trade in medical supplies increased by 16 per cent and personal protective equipment (PPE) by nearly 50 per cent. 

“However, some pandemic-related trade restrictions do remain in place, and the challenge is to ensure that they are indeed transparent and temporary,” she said. — AFP

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