What has the WTO ministerial conference achieved? -Breaking
GENEVA, (Reuters) – The World Trade Organization’s 164 member countries approved a set of trade agreements on Friday. These included pledges to fish stocks and health as well as food security and other commitments. This was after five days of intense negotiations. [L1N2Y400M]
These agreements are described in detail.
India, South Africa, as well as other developing countries, have sought to waive intellectual property rights in COVID-19 diagnostics, treatment, and vaccines. But, this was met with resistance from many developed countries.
In May, a provisional agreement between the major parties (India, South Africa and the United States) was reached that only covered vaccines. It has been widely adopted.
The use of a patent to produce and sell goods without consent from the patent holder will be permitted in developing countries for five years. A possible extension may also be granted. Exports can be used to increase access and ensure that production is not limited to the domestic market.
WTO members will consider within six months whether to expand the waiver to include diagnostics or therapeutics.
China has chosen to opt out of waiver. The United States insists on this.
Campaign groups had asked members to reject this text because it was too restrictive and did not constitute an IP waiver.
WTO agreed to a declaration regarding its response COVID-19, preparedness for future epidemics and stressed the importance of developing countries.
The members also agreed that emergency trade measures must be appropriate and only temporary, and should not disrupt supply chain operations. They should exercise restraint when restricting exports to essential medical items.
WTO member countries reached an agreement to cut subsidies that encourage overfishing. This is a crucial step for environmentalists to help fish stocks recover.
These talks are ongoing for more than 20 years. The deal represents only the second multilateral agreement regarding new global trade regulations that the WTO has reached in its 27 year history. WTO’s credibility was tested by the fisheries result.
It is stated in the agreement that WTO members will not grant subsidies to vessels and operators who engage illegally, unreported or unregulated fishing.
For two years, developing countries are exempt.
The members will investigate activities offshore their coastlines, and each member will need to inform the WTO about their fishing subsidies.
India was once a major critic.
The talks are expected to continue, however, to find a better agreement to reduce further fisheries subsidy subsidies. This would be ideally for 2023’s next ministerial conference.
WTO was created to address a crisis in food supply and prices, exacerbated by disruptions at Russia’s major cereal producer Ukraine.
WTO members signed a declaration committing to taking concrete actions to improve trade in agriculture and food, as well as fertilizers and other inputs. They also reaffirmed their commitment not limit export restrictions.
WTO members agreed also to make a binding decision to not curb exports from the World Food Programme. The WFP is a program that fights hunger in countries affected by wars, disasters, climate change and other factors. The WTO members would be able to take measures to protect their food security.
WTO members extended a moratorium for customs duties to be placed on electronic transmissions. These include streaming services and financial transactions. Corporate data flows are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Since 1998, the moratorium has been in effect. India and South Africa had opposed the extension at first, insisting that they were not entitled to customs revenues.
This extension will be extended to the next ministerial meeting, which normally would take place by 2023. However, it will end on March 31, 2024.
WTO member countries agree that the organization’s rules book must be updated, but they differ on how to do this.
Its dispute appeals court is currently paralysed almost 2 years after the US president Donald Trump blocked appointment of new adjudicators. This has limited WTO’s ability for trade disputes to be resolved.
The members committed to working towards reforms to the WTO in order to enhance its functioning. These reforms should be transparent to all members and include developing countries that are entitled to special treatment.
WTO has committed to holding discussions to ensure that a functioning dispute resolution system is in place by 2024.
This declaration highlighted how important services trade is and called for more participation from developing countries.
They also recognized global environmental problems such as climate change, natural disasters and loss of biodiversity. According to some experts, environmental concerns could give the body an extra life force and purpose.