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Department of Trade and Industry must call for the WTO’s suspension of trade talks

Department of Trade and Industry must call for the WTO’s suspension of trade talks

Public Services International | Letter to the Minister of Trade and Industry | 4 May 2020

As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps across the world, all governments must be pursuing global policies which support the most effective public health response possible. India, The Africa Group and 30 developing countries are calling for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to halt trade talks to allow their governments to prioritize their health response

This is particularly important for developing countries, many of whom lack the institutional capacity and resources needed to fight the virus. The World Bank predicts the outbreak will push 49 million more people into extreme poverty, while the United Nations Development Program warns nearly half of all jobs in Africa could be lost.

The COVID pandemic by definition is global and will continue for many years. Our citizens and community are only as safe as the weakest country’s efforts. Our lives and our economy are in serious danger if we do not ensure that all countries are able to focus on eliminating the disease.

We urge you to immediately support the suspension of negotiations until the crisis has passed.

Our government should be helping to reinvigorate global solidarity. This means working with the WTO to suspend intellectual property rules where they restrict access to key medicines and hinder the fight to save lives. As internationalism comes under increasing attack, global policies which put people ahead of profits will bolster public confidence in our institutions. This is of particular importance to the WTO, which has been the target of intense criticism from across the political spectrum. Our government must support countries who do not have the capacity to continue trade talks at the height of a pandemic.

While our situation may be soon be improving, other states deserve our solidarity as they work their way through the unfolding crisis. PSI has joined over 300 trade experts and civil society organisations, calling on the WTO and its member states to suspend talks and put public health and saving lives first in all global policy development.

We sincerely hope the Ministry will reconsider the continuation of talks and instead advance innovative, life-saving changes to existing trade rules.

Issued by,

Public Services International (PSI) along with the Alternative Information and Development Centre.

Contact people:

Tichaona Fambisa – PSI, Southern Africa – Sub-regional secretary (

Sani Baba – PSI Regional Secretary, Africa and Asia (

Jonathan Cannard – Researcher, AIDC ( )

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