WTO talks in UAE end with no major win, throwing trade body into ‘crisis’

UAE Minister of Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi speaks during the opening ceremony of the WTO ministerial meeting in Abu Dhabi on February 26, 2024. (REUTERS)
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UAE Minister of Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi speaks during the opening ceremony of the WTO ministerial meeting in Abu Dhabi on February 26, 2024. (REUTERS)
WTO talks in UAE end with no major win, throwing trade body into ‘crisis’
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Delegates attend the 13th WTO ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi on February 26, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 02 March 2024
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WTO talks in UAE end with no major win, throwing trade body into ‘crisis’

WTO talks in UAE end with no major win, throwing trade body into ‘crisis’
  • The outcome highlights the sharp divisions among the body´s 164 members amid geopolitical tensions and economic headwinds that are threatening global commerce

ABU DHABI: A high-level WTO conference ended Saturday with a temporary extension of an e-commerce moratorium but no deals on agriculture and fisheries, throwing into doubt the effectiveness of the multilateral trade body.

The outcomes of the World Trade Organization’s 13th ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi highlighted the sharp divisions between the body´s 164 members amid geopolitical tensions and economic headwinds that are threatening global commerce.
“The WTO needed a good crisis and perhaps this will lead to a realization that we cannot continue like this,” said a senior European Union official participating in the talks.
Speaking at the closing press conference, the Emirati chair of the so-called MC13 gathering, Thani Al Zeyoudi, acknowledged the shortcomings.
“Despite our best efforts, we failed to agree on some texts which are of great importance to many of our members,” said Al Zeyoudi, who also serves as the UAE’s foreign trade minister.
For her part, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the talks came up “against an international backdrop marked by greater uncertainty than at any time I can remember.”
“We have achieved some important things and we have not managed to complete others,” she said, while insisting that the “glass was half full.”




Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, WTO director-general, speaks during the opening ceremony of the WTO ministerial meeting in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 26, 2024. (REUTERS)

The WTO, the only international body dealing with the rules of trade between nations, requires full consensus from all members to chalk up deals.
It was hoping the MC13 would replicate the landmark success of its 2022 ministerial in Geneva, which yielded a deal on fisheries and saw members agree to restore a now-defunct dispute settlement system by the end of this year.
But the latest ministerial fell short of that objective.
“The unexpected weakness of the overall (MC13) package should... serve as a wake-up call,” the secretary general of the International Chamber of Commerce, John Denton, said in a statement.

After a 2022 deal that banned subsidies contributing to illegal, undeclared and unregulated fishing, the WTO was hoping to conclude a second package focusing on subsidies that result in overcapacity and overfishing.
Negotiations in recent months at the WTO headquarters in Geneva had enabled a draft text to be brought forward for a second fisheries deal, which provided flexibility and advantages for developing countries.
But some — notably India — demanded further concessions, including transition periods that others consider to be too long.
At MC13, a revised draft fisheries agreement faced strong objections from New Delhi.
“There was basically just one country that was blocking the deal,” said EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, without specifying which member.
Richard Ouellet of Canada’s University of Laval said “consensus, which was once the cement of this organization, has now become the mud in which it is bogged down.”

With farmer protests sweeping Europe and India, agriculture agreements also emerged as a particularly sensitive topic of debate.
Member states were trying to negotiate a text listing the subjects that merit further discussion.
An agriculture package, however, was hampered by a firm demand by India for permanent rules governing public stockholding of food reserves to replace temporary measures adopted by the WTO.
India’s insistence on a permanent solution for public stockholding was “impossible to bridge,” Dombrovskis said.
Despite failing on agriculture and fisheries, the WTO managed to temporarily salvage a moratorium on customs duties for digital transmissions that was extended for another two years.
It faced a particularly strong challenge at MC13, with countries led by India and South Africa arguing that it harms customs revenues.
India’s Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said Friday that he allowed the extension to pass “out of respect” to the conference’s Emirati chair, whom he called a “good friend.”




India's Minister of Commerce Piyush Goyal prepares to brief journalists at a WTO meeting in Abu Dhabi on February 29, 2024. (REUTERS)

However, the moratorium, which has been regularly extended since 1998, is set to definitively expire on March 31, 2016, with no chance of an extension, Iweala said.
“I think that the membership has agreed... on very firm dates for its conclusion,” she said.
“I have to abide by what the membership has just decided.”
On dispute settlement reform, the final outcome mainly reiterated the commitment made at MC12 to have a fully and well-functioning dispute settlement system in place by 2024.
Washington, under former President Donald Trump, brought the system to a grinding halt in 2019 by blocking the appointment of new judges to the WTO’s appeals court, the organization’s highest dispute settlement authority.
“We wished for more progress on the question of appeal... but we were not able to move forward as fast as we wanted,” Dombrovskis said.
 


Palestinians say Israeli troops kill teen in West Bank

Updated 38 sec ago
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Palestinians say Israeli troops kill teen in West Bank

Palestinians say Israeli troops kill teen in West Bank
Naeem Abdullah Samha, 15, was killed “by occupation (Israeli army) bullets” in the city of Qalqilya
He was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead of his wounds there

JERUSALEM: The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian teenager in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, amid escalating violence in the territory since the war in Gaza began on October 7.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.
Naeem Abdullah Samha, 15, was killed “by occupation (Israeli army) bullets” in the city of Qalqilya, the Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah said in a statement.
The Palestinian official news agency Wafa, citing local sources, reported that Samha was shot in the chest.
He was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead of his wounds there, the agency said, which gave no reason for the shooting.
The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has for more than a year experienced a rise in deadly incidents, but particularly since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7.
Israel has carried out near-daily raids in the West Bank in what it says is a bid to thwart militant groups.
At least 547 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli troops or settlers since the Israel-Hamas war broke out, according to Palestinian officials.
Attacks by Palestinians have killed at least 14 Israelis in the West Bank over the same period, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
The West Bank is home to about 490,000 Israeli settlers who live in communities considered illegal under international law.

Netanyahu criticism on US weapons deliveries ‘vexing’: White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. (AFP)
Updated 13 min 47 sec ago
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Netanyahu criticism on US weapons deliveries ‘vexing’: White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. (AFP)
  • Netanyahu said that “it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel”

WASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism this week over US weapons deliveries to his country is “vexing,” the White House said on Thursday.
“Those comments were deeply disappointing and certainly vexing to us, given the amount of support that we have and will continue to provide,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists.
In a video statement, Netanyahu said that while he appreciated America’s support during the Gaza war, “it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.”
The United States however has said that there is only one shipment of 2,000 pound bombs that is under review because of concerns about their use in densely populated areas.
Kirby separately said that US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is due to meet his Israeli counterpart Tzachi Hanegbi and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer on Thursday.
Washington is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, where Israel has conducted more than eight months of operations against Hamas.
The war was triggered by an unprecedented October 7 attack by Palestinian militants on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza has killed at least 37,431 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.


Cyprus rejects Hezbollah claim on Israel and airports

Cyprus rejects Hezbollah claim on Israel and airports
Updated 16 min 27 sec ago
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Cyprus rejects Hezbollah claim on Israel and airports

Cyprus rejects Hezbollah claim on Israel and airports
  • “Cyprus is not involved, nor will it become involved, in any military conflicts,” government spokesperson Konstantinos Letymbiotis said
  • He called Nasrallah’s comments “not pleasant,” adding that “all necessary diplomatic steps will be taken“

NICOSIA: Cyprus on Thursday rejected as “groundless” allegations by the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement that airports on the east Mediterranean island might be used by Israeli warplanes if the Israel-Hamas war spreads.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah in a televised address on Wednesday threatened Cyprus in the event that total war erupts in the region.
“Opening Cypriot airports and bases to the Israeli enemy to target Lebanon would mean that the Cypriot government is part of the war, and the resistance will deal with it as part of the war,” he said, referring to Hezbollah.
The government in Nicosia swiftly denied any Cyprus military involvement in Israel’s war against Hezbollah ally Hamas.
“Cyprus is not involved, nor will it become involved, in any military conflicts,” government spokesperson Konstantinos Letymbiotis told state radio on Thursday.
He called Nasrallah’s comments “not pleasant,” adding that “all necessary diplomatic steps will be taken.”
The island is home to two British military bases, but these are on sovereign UK territory and not controlled by the Cyprus government.
The British Akrotiri air base on the south coast has been used by the Royal Air Force which has joined the US Air Force in targeting Houthi rebels in Yemen who have attacked shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
The Houthis say they are doing so in solidarity with the Palestinian Hamas movement.
Over the past decade, Cyprus has built stronger ties with Israel, particularly in the search for new energy sources and in tourism.
Cyprus is the European Union’s easternmost member, and is less than 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Lebanon.
President Nikos Christodoulides has denied there has been any Cypriot involvement in the Israel-Hamas war except as “part of the solution” as a staging post for humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip via a maritime corridor.
“Cyprus is not part of the problem. As it is widely acknowledged, its diplomatic footprint is part of the solution,” government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis added in a separate written statement on Thursday.
“Any public allegations that refer to an involvement of Cyprus through its infrastructure or its territory in the event of a confrontation that relates to Lebanon are totally groundless,” the statement said.
“Cyprus has never facilitated and will not facilitate any aggressive action or attack against any country.”
On the street, reactions to the Hezbollah leader’s remarks were mixed.
“It’s a very tense moment all over the world,” Brazilian tourist Glaussia, 54, told AFP, not giving her last name.
She added that it was important that “everybody make an effort for peace.”
Nicosia resident Costas stressed that his country’s only involvement in the current conflict was to provide “humanitarian help to the people over there.”
He said the government would not become involved in the war in any military capacity.
“Cyprus is a credible enabler of stability, and an acknowledged regional hub for humanitarian operations, based on excellent relations with all the countries in the region,” government spokesman Letymbiotis said in his statement.


Specialist hospital organizes Advanced Therapies Forum

Specialist hospital organizes Advanced Therapies Forum
Updated 21 min 45 sec ago
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Specialist hospital organizes Advanced Therapies Forum

Specialist hospital organizes Advanced Therapies Forum
  • Event in Riyadh will bring together 30 representatives from various government organizations and academic institutions alongside advanced therapy manufacturing companies
  • Forum’s agenda seeks to build bridges between academic healthcare institutions, industry stakeholders, funding agencies, investors, regulators, and government agencies

RIYADH: The King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center is set to host the Advanced Therapies Forum which will take place from June 23-24, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The event in Riyadh will bring together 30 representatives from various government organizations and academic institutions alongside advanced therapy manufacturing companies. It will aim to foster a collaborative environment where industrial partners can showcase their research and forge strategic alliances with healthcare institutions.

The forum’s agenda seeks to build bridges between academic healthcare institutions, industry stakeholders, funding agencies, investors, regulators, and government agencies. It also strives to increase the number of clinical research studies in the fields of T-cell therapy and gene therapy.

Industrial partners, including pharmaceutical companies of all sizes, will have the opportunity to explore avenues for launching clinical research initiatives at KFSH&RC.

The forum will feature 15 keynote speeches, over 30 presentations on ongoing projects by industry leaders, five panel discussions, and numerous other sessions. The goal is to cultivate a shared vision for the future of advanced therapies in the Kingdom and to localize manufacturing technology for cellular and gene therapies.

In recent years, KFSH&RC has emerged as a beacon of hope for patients who faced limited treatment options, using genetically modified immune cells to successfully treat more than 120 individuals.

The journey began with a positive outcome for the first child from the region to be treated using T-cells. More recently, the hospital successfully applied advanced gene therapy to eight patients with hereditary hemophilia. The single-dose therapy effectively elevated levels of the missing clotting factor, empowering patients to reclaim their lives.

KFSH&RC has been ranked 20th among the top 250 academic healthcare institutions worldwide, according to SPA, and has held the top spot in the Middle East and Africa region for two consecutive years.

Currently, more than 30 gene and genetically modified cell therapies have been officially approved for clinical use. Experts predict that the global cell and gene therapy market is poised for exponential growth, outpacing the traditional pharmaceutical industry to surpass a staggering $50 billion annually by 2027.

It is estimated that more than 2 million patients will benefit from T-cell therapy within the next decade, with more than a thousand clinical research studies actively underway across the globe.


France coach says team doing all to ensure Mbappé available for Netherlands match at Euro 2024

France coach says team doing all to ensure Mbappé available for Netherlands match at Euro 2024
Updated 31 min 11 sec ago
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France coach says team doing all to ensure Mbappé available for Netherlands match at Euro 2024

France coach says team doing all to ensure Mbappé available for Netherlands match at Euro 2024
  • “He was able to take part in some light exercises yesterday,″ Deschamps said

LEIPZIG, Germany: France coach Didier Deschamps says his team are doing all “to ensure” Kylian Mbappé is available for the Euro 2024 clash against the Netherlands on Friday.
“Everything is going well, after the shock we had. He was able to take part in some light exercises yesterday and that will be the same this evening″ Deschamps said Thursday. “We’ll do all we can to ensure that he’ll be available tomorrow.”
Mbappé broke his nose in France’s opening 1-0 win over Austria on Monday when his face collided with Austria defender Kevin Danso’s shoulder. Blood stained his white France jersey. If he plays, he’ll need to wear a mask. But it remains uncertain.
Mbappé returned to light training on Wednesday and was expected to continue preparations on Thursday.