WTO Approves Package of Trade Agreements and Recieves Delegate Applauds
After more than five exhausting days of discussions, the 164 members of the World Trade Organization signed a number of trade agreements early on Friday that included obligations on fish as well as promises on health and food security.
The agreements were hammered out during five days of negotiations at a gathering of more than 100 trade ministers, which was considered as a test of countries’ capacity to reach multilateral trade agreements amid rising geopolitical tensions brought on by the conflict in Ukraine.
Just before dawn on Friday, delegates applauded as they passed the bundle of six accords.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director general, said to them: “The set of agreements you have made will have an impact on people’s lives all across the world. The results show that the WTO can actually respond to contemporary emergencies.”
She had earlier pleaded with WTO members to take into account the “delicate balance” needed during practically nonstop discussions that were extended for a further two days and occasionally laced with resentment and accusations.
At one point, it seemed as though India’s demands, which it views as the protector of poor farmers and fishermen and of developing nations, would paralyze negotiations, but compromises were made, according to trade sources.
All decisions must be made in accordance with the WTO’s regulations, and any member may exercise a veto.
The package, which Okonjo-Iweala referred to as “unprecedented,” contained the two most notable agreements under consideration—one relating to fisheries, and the other to a partial waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights for COVID-19 vaccines.
In the 27-year history of the WTO, the deal to reduce fishing subsidies is just the second multilateral agreement that establishes new international trade norms, and it is much more ambitious than the first, which was intended to reduce red tape.
Deal on fishing subsidies has the power to stop declining fish stocks. Despite being greatly reduced, it received approval.
According to Isabel Jarrett, manager of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ effort to cut damaging fisheries subsidies, “this is a turning point in addressing one of the major causes of worldwide overfishing.”
After nearly two years of disagreement in the WTO, a settlement on a partial IP waiver that would allow developing nations to manufacture and sell COVID-19 vaccines was finally approved. It has also received the heaviest criticism from advocacy groups who claim that it is too restricted by excluding pharmaceuticals and diagnostics and hardly extends on an existing exemption in WTO standards.
Simply put, it is a technocratic fudge, according to Max Lawson, co-chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, “meant to save reputations, not lives.”
On Thursday, a deal was also made about the continuation of a moratorium on e-commerce tariffs, which is thought to be essential for ensuring the free movement of data around the world.
The treaties should strengthen the WTO, which was undermined by the prior US, according to many analysts who were generally in favor of them.
It was put on a course for reform after President Donald Trump severely limited its capacity to intervene in trade conflicts.
John Denton, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce, stated before the package passed that “there is now a package on the table at (the ministerial conference) that would provide a major boost to the legitimacy and power of the WTO system.”