What did WTO ministers agree on? And why are these agreements historic?

After more than five days of arduous talks, the 164 members of the World Trade Organization agreed Friday morning on a series of trade agreements, including obligations on fish and commitments on health and safety. eating.

It was also decided that by the next WTO Ministerial Conference, or at the latest in March 2024, a definitive solution to the question of maintaining the moratorium on the imposition of customs fees on the electronic transmission of goods would be found.

According to the WTO, round-the-clock negotiations between delegations contributed to the conclusion of the agreement, which included a number of decisions on fisheries subsidies, the WTO’s response to emergencies, including a waiver of certain requirements regarding compulsory licensing for COVID-19 vaccines, food safety and agriculture, and WTO reforms.

A win-win situation for India

India adjusted the narrative and controlled it brilliantly from start to finish during the WTO ministerial session, which saw several landmark decisions, and the country’s reputation in the international community has grown tremendously.

After seven years, a ministerial conference finally produced a result. Ministerial decisions have been taken on all subjects except agriculture, which was expected. a total of eight or nine, with several groundbreaking verdicts.

What has been achieved at the WTO, sources say, is a tremendous achievement. India’s reputation has shifted from deal breaker to deal maker, which was impossible a year ago, according to insiders.

Here are the specifics of the historical agreements:

Response to the Covid-19 pandemic

For more than a year, India, South Africa and other developing countries have demanded waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics, but have been met with opposition from many developed countries with large pharmaceutical companies.

In May, an agreement in principle limited to vaccines was reached between the main parties – India, South Africa, the United States and the European Union – and this is largely what has been implemented.

Developing countries will be able to use a patent for manufacture and supply without the approval of the patent holder for a period of five years, with the possibility of extension. Production does not have to be primarily for the domestic market, allowing larger exports to provide equitable access.

Watch | WTO agrees to lift COVID vaccine patents for 5 years

WTO members should consider extending the waiver to pharmaceuticals and diagnostics within six months. China freely chose to withdraw from the waiver, which the United States had insisted on.

According to the campaign groups, members were asked to reject the wording because it was too restrictive and not a real waiver of intellectual property. LDCs.

Members also agreed that any emergency trade measures should be proportionate and temporary, and that supply chains should not be unnecessarily disrupted. The imposition of export restrictions on vital medical supplies must also be done with caution.

Illegal fishing to fight

WTO members in the fisheries sector have agreed to eliminate subsidies that contribute to overfishing, a step that conservationists say is essential to rebuilding fish stocks.

The negotiations lasted 20 years, and the agreement is only the second multilateral WTO agreement on new global trade rules in its 27-year history. The outcome of the fisheries case was seen as a litmus test for the credibility of the WTO.

According to the agreement, no WTO member can grant subsidies to vessels or operators that engage in illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing, or that fish an overexploited stock.

For two years, developing countries will be exempt. Members will conduct their own investigations into activities off their coasts, and all members will be required to report their fisheries subsidy programs to the WTO.

India was previously one of the most vocal opponents. However, discussions will continue in order to reach a more comprehensive agreement on fisheries subsidies in time for the next Ministerial Conference, which is expected to take place in 2023.

Watch | WTO signs historic agreements on food, health and fisheries

Actions to facilitate trade in food and agricultural products

The World Trade Organization (WTO) aimed to address the dilemma of food supply and rising prices caused by disruptions to exports from major wheat exporters Ukraine and Russia.

Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed in a statement to take specific action to facilitate trade in food and agricultural products, including grains, fertilizers and other agricultural inputs, and stressed the importance to lower export restrictions.

World Trade Organization (WTO) members have also agreed to a binding pledge not to choke off exports to the World Food Program (WFP), which works to alleviate hunger in conflict-affected areas. , natural disasters and climate change. Members would still have the ability to take action to ensure their own food security.

Moratorium on e-commerce

WTO members have extended a moratorium on the imposition of tariffs on electronic communications worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year, ranging from streaming services to financial transactions and corporate data feeds .

The ban has been in place since 1998. South Africa and India initially opposed the extension, saying they should not lose customs revenue.

The extension will last until the next ministerial meeting, which is expected to take place by the end of 2023 but will expire on March 31, 2024 in any case.

WTO rules are being revised

WTO members agree that the organization’s rules need to be updated, but disagree on what changes are needed.

More importantly, the WTO Disputes Appeals Court was closed for nearly two years after then-President Donald Trump rejected new arbitrator appointments, limiting the ability of the body. WTO to adjudicate trade disputes.

Members agreed to work for the reform of the WTO in order to strengthen the activities of the organization. This effort should be open and transparent, and should take into account the interests of all members, including developing countries, which receive preferential consideration.

By 2024, the WTO is committed to holding discussions to establish a fully functioning dispute settlement system.


You can now write for and be part of the community. Share your stories and opinions with us here.

#WTO #ministers #agree #agreements #historic

Post expires at 11:55am on Tuesday June 28th, 2022