Economy

WTO close to sealing trade deal with limited commitments after seven years

Amiti Sen 10206 | Updated on: Jun 16, 2022
Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the opening ceremony of the 12th Ministerial Conference, at the World Trade Organisation, in Geneva, Switzerland

Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the opening ceremony of the 12th Ministerial Conference, at the World Trade Organisation, in Geneva, Switzerland | Photo Credit: POOL

India’s interests in fisheries protected, but no agreement on public stockholding, exports from public food stock

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is close to cobbling up a trade deal at its 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva, seven years after the last pact in Nairobi in 2015, with limited commitments under way in areas including TRIPS waiver for Covid-19 vaccines, World Food Programme procurement, moratorium on e-commerce, and also on disciplining fisheries subsidies.

India’s key demands of getting a permanent solution on tackling subsidy limits for public stock holding programmes and of allowing exports from public stocks on government-to-government basis for humanitarian causes and food aid have, however, been set aside for a decision at the next Ministerial Conference likely in two years time.

“Last-minute hectic negotiations are still going on in a few areas, although most of the issues have been settled. We are hopeful that a decision will be announced later in the day,” a person tracking the meeting told BusinessLine. The four-day MC-12, which was to conclude on Wednesday, was extended by a day, till Thursday, as members were not able to agree on a deal on key issues.

The moratorium on customs duties on e-commerce is also likely to get an extension, with members agreeing to continue not imposing duties till the next Ministerial Conference, which is to be scheduled in December 2023. “However, there is likely to be a caveat that in case the ministerial gets delayed, the moratorium will lapse on March 31, 2024, if not renewed through consensus,” The package is also set to include a temporary waiver of certain TRIPS provisions, but only on vaccines, which is likely to be for a period of five years. India had been insistent that the waiver should be given for therapeutics and diagnostics as well but this is to be settled at a later date.

“Vaccines can be both manufactured without the permission of the patent holder and be exported by the manufacturer,” said the source.

In the area of fisheries subsidies, there will be no curbs on subsidies for fishers fishing within the country’s jurisdiction, which was a key demand of India. Now, all members are free to give subsidies for items such as boats, nets, fishing equipment and fuel without any limits.

However, for illegal and unregulated fishing, the exemption from subsidy cuts is likely to be for two years. “India does not engage in illegal and unregulated fishing or fishing in the high seas. So, the curbs don’t matter,” said the source.

Members are also set to agree to exempt food procurement by WFP from export restrictions but with a clause that restrictions could be imposed if domestic food security is at stake.

Published on June 16, 2022
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