WTO secures unprecedented package of trade outcomes at Ministerial Conference

2022-06-17 21:15:17Xinhua Editor : Xue Lingqiao ECNS App Download

As the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) closed at dawn on Friday, multilaterally negotiated outcomes on a series of key trade initiatives have been secured.

WTO members have agreed on a "Geneva Package" of agreements on key issues, including pandemic response, a Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver related to COVID-19, food security, World Food Programme Food Purchases Exemption, fishery subsidies, e-commerce and WTO reforms, according to several ministerial declarations and decisions announced at the conference.

The package of agreements shows that "WTO members can come together, across geopolitical fault lines, to address problems of the global commons, and to reinforce and reinvigorate this institution. They give us cause to hope that strategic competition will be able to exist alongside growing strategic cooperation," said WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Delegates gave the green light to a partial intellectual property waiver to allow developing countries to produce and export COVID-19 vaccines as well as therapeutics and diagnostics, an issue that has divided the WTO for nearly two years and drawn the fiercest criticism from campaign groups.

The accord to curb fishing subsidies prohibits support for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and fishing in overfished stocks, and takes a first but significant step forward to curb subsidies for overcapacity and overfishing by ending fishing subsidies on unregulated high seas.

It is the first time that member states have struck a deal with environmental sustainability at its heart, the WTO chief said.

Faced by the worst food security crisis, member states decided to make trade in food and agricultural inputs more predictable and prices less volatile, while making it easier for the World Food Programme to feed millions of the world's most vulnerable people.

Ministers also agreed on a process for addressing longstanding calls for the reform of the WTO by committing member states to an open, transparent and inclusive process overseen by the WTO General Council, which will consider decisions on reform for submission to the 13th Ministerial Conference.

The Ministerial Conference, attended by trade ministers and other senior officials from the organization's 164 members, is the WTO's highest decision-making body and generally held every two years.

The 12th conference, which opened Sunday, has been extended by one day in order to facilitate outcomes on the main issues under discussion. 


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