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WTO ministers reach deals on fisheries, food, COVID vaccines

WTO Director-General Nzogi Okonjo-Iweala, after a pair of sleepless nights in rugged negotiations, concluded the WTO’s first ministerial conference in 4-1/2 years by trumpeting a new sense of cooperation at a time when the world has faced crises like growing food insecurity, war in Ukraine and a once-in-a-century pandemic that has taken millions of lives.

AP Edited by: AP Geneva Updated on: June 17, 2022 14:29 IST
WTO ministers reach deals on fisheries food COVID vaccines, WTO ministers, 12th WTO ministerial conf
Image Source : AP.

World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, front left, applause next to conference chair Timur Suleimenov, second right, after a closing session of a World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference at the WTO headquarters in Geneva early Friday, June 17, 2022. 

 

Highlights

  • WTO members have reached a string of deals and commitments aimed to limit overfishing
  • WTO Director-General Nzogi Okonjo-Iweala concluded the WTO’s 1st ministerial conference in 4.5 yrs
  • WTO members for 1st time concluded agreement with environmental sustainability, said Okonjo-Iweala

World Trade Organization (WTO) members have reached a string of deals and commitments aimed to limit overfishing, broaden production of COVID-19 vaccines in the developing world and reform a 27-year-old trade body that has been back on its heels in recent years.

WTO Director-General Nzogi Okonjo-Iweala, after a pair of sleepless nights in rugged negotiations, concluded the WTO’s first ministerial conference in 4-1/2 years by trumpeting a new sense of cooperation at a time when the world has faced crises like growing food insecurity, war in Ukraine and a once-in-a-century pandemic that has taken millions of lives.

“The package agreements you have reached will make a difference to the lives of people around the world,” said Okonjo-Iweala, who is 15 months into the job. “The outcomes demonstrate that the WTO is in fact capable of responding to emergencies of our time.”

Know some key achievements of WTO meeting:

Among the main achievements at the 164-member trade body were an agreement, which fell short of full early ambitions, to prohibit support for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and ban support for fishing in overfished stocks in the world’s oceans. The WTO chief said on Friday the accord takes a “first but significant step” to curb government subsidies and overcapacity- too many operators- in the fishing industry.

“WTO members have for the first time, concluded an agreement with environmental sustainability at its heart,” Okonjo-Iweala said. 

“This is also about the livelihoods of the 260 million people who depend directly or indirectly on marine fisheries.”

Some controversy in WTO meeting:

More controversial was agreement on a watered-down plan to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, which ran afoul of advocacy groups that say it did not go far enough- and could even do more harm than good.

“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,” said Okonjo-Iweala of the waiver of intellectual property protections.

Aid group Doctors Without Borders called it a “ devastating global failure for people’s health worldwide” that the agreement stopped short of early calls to include other tools to fight the coronavirus including treatments and tests.

The meeting also agreed to lift export restrictions that have weighed on the U.N.’s World Food Program, which is trying to offset the impact of rising food prices and fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine on shipments of wheat, barely and other foodstuffs from a key producer of them.

ALSO READ: Piyush Goyal pitches for permanent solution for food security with WTO DG at G33 meeting in Geneva

ALSO READ: India all set to protect its interests at 12th WTO ministerial meet in Geneva

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