Even as the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) ended, Trade and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said on Friday that India was 100% satisfied of the outcome of the conference and “there is no issue for which we need to return to India with any kind of concern”. The 164 member countries of the WTO have finally signed a set of agreements on issues such as the global waiver of intellectual property rights (IPRs) for Covid vaccines and fisheries subsidies to protect ocean resources.
It is the biggest agreement in nine years after the 2013 Bali conference in which a trade facilitation agreement was reached. The ministerial conference of the 164 members of the WTO, which takes place once every two years to legislate on world trade, has ended in Geneva, Switzerland. The four-day mega reunion began on June 12, but then extended for two days due to major member differences.
“India has become a credible and strong voice for developing and least developed countries with unprecedented results at MC12. We have unequivocally proven our ability to build consensus for the common good as a global leader “, Piyush Goyal said in a tweet on Friday. Here are some of the highlights of the WTO talks and India’s success:
At the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali in 2013, member countries sealed the Trade Facilitation Agreement to promote the smooth flow of goods across global borders. Under the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement, the WTO was discussing the elimination of subsidies on illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing activities in all regions – territorial (12 nautical miles from shore), exclusive economic zones or EEZ (200 nautical miles) and high seas (beyond 200 nautical miles) including in overfished areas.
“We have succeeded in controlling those who practice illegal fishing or engage in illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing activities,” Goyal told a press conference.
He added that some countries are experts in IUU fishing. They are responsible for finishing fish around the world, along with deep sea fishing. India has successfully regulated them. This is a great victory for India.
COVID-19 vaccine patent waiver
India has been calling for the temporary suspension of parts of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for a year and a half. This can enable sharing of vaccines and testing technologies for COVID-19.
WTO members finally agreed to suspend IPR measures for the manufacture and transfer of COVID-19 vaccines. However, the waiver is limited to only vaccines under the agreement and not to other treatments like testing or other technologies related to COVID-19.
WTO Director-General Nzogi Okonjo-Iweala said the compromise on the TRIPS waiver will help ongoing efforts to concentrate and diversify vaccine manufacturing capacity so that a crisis in a region does not leave others isolated, according to the AP news agency.
This will help developing countries manufacture vaccines, Goyal said.
Foodgrain Public Storage Program
India, along with other developing countries, has asked the WTO for a permanent solution on public stockholding schemes, including crop support prices. The WTO considers subsidy provided for public stockholding, including minimum support price (MSP) programs for crops, as trade-distorting support. It must be kept below 10 percent of the production value. India and the G-33 fought for the flexibility to grant a higher MSP.
“The MSP, on which the Indian government buys, and India’s public storage and food security programme; the importance of public storage has been restored. There is no negative outcome for India in the agriculture sector,” Goyal said.
It was also agreed to find a definitive solution to the issue of maintaining the moratorium on the imposition of customs duties on the electronic transmission of goods by the next WTO Ministerial Conference or no later than March 2024, according to an ET report citing sources.
Talks were also underway on the issue of continuing the moratorium on e-commerce tariff levies. India opposed the continuation of the moratorium and requested a review of the matter.
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