World trade body strikes deals on fisheries, e-commerce, food insecurity and COVID-19 vaccines

GENEVA

After intense discussions, the World Trade Organization on Friday finalized a package of agreements on fisheries subsidies, e-commerce, food insecurity and COVID-19 vaccines among its 164 members.

“It hasn’t been long since the WTO has seen so many multilateral outcomes,” WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said at the end of the meeting.

“You don’t go home empty-handed,” she said Friday morning after extending the meeting for two days and delegates working through the night to reach their agreements.

The ministers dealt with each area of ​​agreement separately, but were unable to finalize their agreements and embarked on talks covering all segments with compromises to secure their final pact.

“You stepped up and delivered in every area we worked on,” she said, telling members they had “invigorated the organization.”

However, several NGOs criticized the outcome of the meeting for failing to provide an effective pandemic intellectual property waiver proposed by India and South Africa.

It was Okonjo-Iweala’s first ministerial meeting at the helm of the WTO after the December 2017 ministerial conference in Buenos Aires failed to reach solid agreements.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced several postponements of the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), which was originally scheduled to be held in Kazakhstan in June 2020.

The WTO said the agreements include a statement on the WTO’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and preparedness for future pandemics and an agreement on fisheries subsidies as well as a statement on the response of food insecurity emergency.

Food purchases

The meeting also decided to exempt World Food Program food purchases from export bans or restrictions and agreed to the extension of a work program on e-commerce and the TRIPS Agreement (Aspects trade-related intellectual property rights) on intellectual property.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said, “Through difficult and protracted discussions, members were able to bridge differences and achieve a concrete and meaningful outcome to deliver safer and more effective vaccines to those in need. most need.

“This agreement shows that we can work together to make the WTO more relevant to the needs of ordinary citizens.”

After the meeting, Christos Christou, the international president of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), expressed his disappointment at an inadequate outcome on the waiver of intellectual property for COVID-19 medical tools.

“This agreement as a whole fails to provide an effective and meaningful solution to help increase people’s access to necessary medical tools during the pandemic because it does not adequately waive intellectual property on all tools. essential medical supplies for COVID-19, and it does not apply to all countries,” Christou said in a statement.

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