Even as the 12th ministerial conference (MC12) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has concluded, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday said India is 100 per cent satisfied with the outcome of the conference and “there is no issue for which we need to return to India with any kind of worry”. The WTO’s 164 member countries have finally signed a package of trade agreements on issues including global intellectual property rights (IPR) waiver for Covid vaccines and fishing subsidies to protect ocean resources.
This is the biggest deal in nine years after the 2013 Bali conference in which a trade facilitation agreement was sealed. The ministerial conference of the 164-member WTO, which takes place once in two years to legislate on global trade, has concluded in Geneva, Switzerland. The four-day mega meeting started on June 12 but later extended for two days due to major differences among members.
“India has emerged as a credible and strong voice for the developing & least developed countries with unprecedented outcomes at the MC12. We have proven unequivocally our ability at constructing consensus for the larger good as a global leader,” Piyush Goyal on Friday said in a tweet on Friday. Here’re some of the highlights of the WTO discussions and India’s success:
At the WTO’s Bali ministerial conference in 2013, the member countries sealed the trade facilitation agreement to promote the seamless movement of goods across the global borders. Under the fisheries subsidies agreement, the WTO was discussing to eliminate subsidies on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing activities in all the regions — territorial (12 nautical miles from seas shore), Exclusive Economic Zones or EEZs (200 nautical miles) and high seas (beyond 200 nautical miles) including in overfished areas.
“We have been successful in bringing control on those doing illegal fishing, or indulging in Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing activities,” Goyal said in a press conference.
He added that some countries are experts in IUU fishing. They are responsible finishing the fish across the world, with deep-sea fishing. India has succeeded in bringing a regulation for them. This is a major victory for India.
Patent Waiver On COVID-19 vaccine
India has been demanding for the past one-and-a-half years to temporarily suspend certain parts of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). It can allow sharing vaccines and testing technology for COVID-19.
The WTO members have finally agreed to suspend IPR measures for manufacturing and transferring COVID-19 vaccines. However, the waiver are limited to only vaccines as part of the agreement and not other treatments like testing or other COVID-19-related technologies.
WTO Director-General Nzogi Okonjo-Iweala said the TRIPS waiver compromise will contribute to ongoing efforts to concentrate and diversify vaccine manufacturing capacity so that a crisis in one region does not leave others cut off, according to news agency AP.
This will help developing countries make vaccines, Goyal said.
Public Stockholding Programme for Foodgrains
India, along with other developing countries, demanded the WTO for a permanent solution on public stock holding programmes, including crop support prices. The WTO considers the subsidy provided for public stock holding, including minimum support price (MSP) programmes for crops, as the trade-distorting support. It has to be maintained under 10 per cent of the value of production. India and the G-33 have been fighting for the flexibility to give higher MSP.
“The MSP, on which the Indian government buys, and India’s public stockholding programme and food security; the importance of public stockholding has been re-established. There is no negative outcome on India in the agriculture sector,” Goyal said.
It was also agreed to find a final solution to the issue of continuation of moratorium on imposing customs duties on electronic transmission of goods by the next ministerial conference of the WTO or not later than March 2024, according to an ET report quoting sources.
Talks were also going on over the issue of the continuation of moratorium on customs duty levies on e-commerce trade. India has opposed the continuation of the moratorium and asked for a review in the matter.
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