In a historic decision, WTO members agree deals on fishing, Covid vaccines, food security

Edited By: C Krishnasai
Geneva Updated: Jun 17, 2022, 10:07 AM(IST)

WTO achieves landmark agreement Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Some delegations even accused India of being intransigent on every topic under discussion at the WTO

In a landmark decision, more than 160 member countries of the World Trade Organization on Friday agreed on deals curbing harmful fishing subsidies, waiving COVID-19 vaccine patents temporarily and tackling food insecurity following two nights of hectic negotiations.

"Not in a long while has the WTO seen such a significant number of multilateral outcomes," the global trade body's director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said after the package of measures was passed by 164 members at its headquarters in Geneva.

"The package of agreements you have reached will make a difference to the lives of people around the world," she said.

"The outcomes demonstrate that the WTO is in fact capable of responding to emergencies of our time,” she added.

The talks at the global trade body's Geneva headquarters began Sunday and were due to wrap up on Wednesday. However, the discussions went through into Friday, finally concluding at around 5:00 am (0300 GMT).

A formal announcement on all these issues is likely to be announced anytime soon.

According to reports, for the first time, subsides on overfishing, deep sea fishing and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing has been addressed through the proposed pact.

Negotiations toward banning subsidies that encourage overfishing and threaten the sustainability of the planet's fish stocks have been going on at the WTO for more than 20 years.

Some delegations accused India of being intransigent on every topic under discussion at the WTO -- where decisions can only pass with the agreement of every member.

But Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal insisted, "India is not a roadblock on anything... People are realising that we were the ones who actually helped create the sole consensus."

Also read | WTO provisionally agrees to extend e-commerce tariff moratorium: Sources

The second major issue on the table was the plan for a COVID-19 vaccine patents waiver.

Some countries that host major pharmaceutical companies, like Britain and Switzerland, were finding some of the draft wording problematic, while big pharma feared a deal that would strangle innovation.

Also read |  WTO eyes initial deal as negotiations continue deep into the night

But Britain's ambassador in Geneva, Simon Manley, told Okonjo-Iweala late Thursday that after clarification and improvements were achieved, London was "now ready to join the consensus".

(With inputs from agencies)

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