President Ramaphosa to address WTO Public Forum opening session

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is scheduled to address the virtual opening session of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Public Forum on Tuesday.

The WTO Public Forum is an annual event that brings together governments, business leaders, academic experts and the civil society.

Themed “Trade Beyond COVID-19: Building Resilience,” this year’s forum will look at the effects of the COVID-9 pandemic on trade and how the multilateral trading system can help build resilience to COVID-19 and future crises.

The Public Forum will have three subthemes:

  • Enhancing Resilience beyond COVID-19,
  • Strengthening the Multilateral Trading System,
  • Collective Action towards Sustainable Trade.

For nearly 20 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching socio-economic effects, leading to increased poverty and deepened inequality across the world.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2021, the global crisis-induced ‘jobs gap’ will reach 75 million in 2021, before falling to 23 million in 2022.

Global unemployment is expected to stand at 205 million people in 2022, greatly surpassing the level of 187 million in 2019. This corresponds to an unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent. Excluding the COVID-19 crisis period, such a rate was last seen in 2013.

Countries around the world are currently undertaking efforts to fully reopen their economies following lengthy disruptions, and are banking on vaccinations to facilitate the return to normalcy.

Vaccinations have however not been synchronized, as lower income countries still struggle to obtain adequate doses of the vital vaccines. Such nations are projected to continue taking a hit from the pandemic if it lasts much longer.

A new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit suggests countries that have not vaccinated 60% of their population by mid-2022 will lose $2.3 trillion of gross domestic product in 2022-25, with emerging countries bearing two-thirds of these losses.

Calls by world leaders have heightened urging wealthy nations to share vaccines to ensure a unified fight against the virus.

In his address on Tuesday, President Ramaphosa is expected to highlight the impact of the pandemic in Africa, as well as ways of curbing further devastation on the continent.

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