2021 Model WTO initiative focuses on trade and health

Close to 60 students from around the world successfully concluded on April 15 the 24th edition of Model WTO, a week-long simulation of WTO negotiations organized by students from the University of St. Gallen with the support of the WTO.

From April 10 -15, 2021, the students took part in an intensive simulation of WTO negotiations, with participants taking the role of WTO delegations in negotiating committees and working together to produce a declaration and recommendations for the WTO.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s Model WTO was held virtually, simulating the constraints currently faced by trade negotiators. Under the topic of “Trade and Public Health”, students from 27 countries debated the role of the WTO in balancing trade and health interests, reflecting ongoing WTO discussions. The issues covered included how to deal with export restrictions, the use of technical barriers to trade, research and development subsidies, challenges related to intellectual property rights, such as compulsory licences, and the role of the WTO in dealing with a global health crisis. Throughout the week, participants received the support of the WTO Secretariat and the WTO delegations they represented.

The participants found that reaching agreement on how to address trade-related obstacles to an increase in COVID-19 vaccine production and distribution is extremely difficult but recognized the importance of action to hasten the end of the pandemic and to support economic recovery.

At the closing ceremony, WTO Secretariat and private sector speakers praised the students for their hard work, their knowledge of WTO issues and the quality of their output and proposals. They also congratulated the Model WTO team for their choice of topic this year and briefed participants on the initiatives the WTO and others are taking in relation to trade and COVID-19.

The WTO remains a strong supporter of Model WTO because it provides tomorrow’s generation of decision-makers with the opportunity to better understand the multilateral trading system and experience the dynamics of trade negotiations.