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Key Takeaways of WTO 12th Ministerial Conference

 

WTO 12th meeting: Relevance

  • GS 2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

 

WTO ministerial conference: Context

  • Recently, 12th WTO Ministerial Conference 2022 concluded in Geneva where a number of deals relating to many issues including waiver of COVID 19 vaccines, food security, was signed.

 

WTO 12th Ministerial Conference: Key takeaways

Curbing fishery subsidies

  • In the recently concluded meeting, WTO passed a multilateral agreement that is aimed at curbing ‘harmful’ subsidies on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing for the next four years.
  • Objective: Better protection of global fish stocks.
  • Significance: Since 2001, member states have been negotiating the banning of subsidies that promote overfishing.
    • First time there is an agreement in WTO that is aimed at environmental sustainability.
    • It caters to the needs of the livelihoods of the 260 million people who depend directly or indirectly on marine fisheries.
  • India: India successfully lobbied with other like-minded nations to remove a section of the proposal that would threaten some subsidies which would assist small-scale artisanal fishing.
    • Artisanal and traditional farmers would not face any restrictions under this agreement.

 

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Global food security

  • Member nations have agreed to a legally binding agreement to exempt food purchased by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) for humanitarian purposes, from any export restrictions.
  • Why needed? Due to global food shortages and rising prices caused by the war between Ukraine and Russia.
  • However, countries would be allowed to restrict food supplies to ensure domestic food security needs.
  • India: India’s demand to allow it to export food from its public stockholdings to other countries will be discussed in the next Ministerial Conference in 2023.

 

E-commerce

  • All member nations agreed to continue the moratorium on custom duties on e-commerce transmissions until the subsequent Ministerial Conference.
  • Significance: WTO members had first agreed to not impose custom duties on electronic transmissions in 1998. However, internet was relatively new at this point of time.
    • Since then, the moratorium has been periodically extended.
  • Issue: From 2017-2020, developing countries lost a potential tariff revenue of around $50 billion on imports from only 49 digital products.
  • India: India has asked WTO to review the extension of the moratorium on custom duties on e-commerce transactions as developing countries faced the brunt of the financial consequences of such a moratorium.

 

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COVID-19 Vaccine production

  • WTO members agreed to temporarily waive intellectual property patents on Covid-19 vaccines without the consent of the patent holder for 5 years.
  • Objective: To ease the manufacture the vaccines domestically.
  • Significance: It 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.
  • Issue: The agreement has been opposed by the rich pharmaceutical companies as they argue that IP’s do not restrict access to Covid vaccines.

 

WTO related news for UPSC

12th WTO Ministerial Conference 2022 WTO Reforms: 60 Nations back New Method on Food Subsidies WTO Agreement on Global Procurement WTO and India: India Invokes Peace Clause of WTO for Third Time
WTO Says, China is a Developing Country WTO Ministerial Conference and the Doha Development Agenda WTO Agreements World Trade Organisation (WTO)
WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism: India Loses WTO Dispute over Sugar Subsidies WTO Reforms India Rejects WTO Draft on Fishery Subsidy

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