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The Editorial Analysis- MC12 Over, It’s ‘Gains’ for the Developed World

WTO Ministerial Conference 2022- Relevance for UPSC Exam

  • GS Paper 2: International Relations- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.



WTO Ministerial Conference 2022 in News

  • This article discusses the major gainers and losers at the recently concluded 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
  • Even a cursory examination of the outcomes of the WTO Ministerial meeting leaves us in no doubt that the European Union (EU) and some other developed countries are the overwhelming winners, while India finds itself on the losing side.



WTO Ministerial Conference 2022- COVID-19 and TRIPS Waiver

  • The WTO ministerial outcome on the so-called TRIPS waiver represents the biggest gain for the EU.
  • Developing Countries Stand: In October 2020, India and South Africa put forth a proposal seeking to temporarily suspend the protection of intellectual property rights such as patents, copyrights, industrial designs and trade secrets.
    • This was done so that the production of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics could be ramped up to help overcome the crisis and fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • The proposal garnered the support of almost 100 countries at the WTO.
  • Developed Countries Stand: Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, Switzerland and the United States, found themselves on the wrong side of the global opinion on this issue.
    • In a guileful move, in June-July 2021, the U.S. gave its support to the proposal, but limited it to vaccines.
    • In the process, it bought peace with its domestic constituents, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
    • Other developed countries, particularly Germany and the U.K., found themselves at the receiving end of the ire of their civil society organisations and prominent opinion makers.



WTO Ministerial Conference 2022- EU’s Advantage

  • EU’s Counter Proposal: It made a counter-proposal to undermine the proposal made by India and South Africa.
    • This counter proposal provided a cosmetic simplification in certain procedural aspects of compulsory licensing in patent rules.
    • In a completely opaque process, by March 2022, India and South Africa were corralled into accepting the EU’s proposal.
  • MC12 Outcome: The final outcome at the MC12 adds very little to what already exists in the WTO rulebook.
    • To make matters worse for developing countries, it adds stringent conditions that are not in the WTO rulebook.
    • The outcome of the TRIPS waiver has provided a face saver to the EU, as it can now look in the eye of its civil society organisations and confidently say that it has done its bit to save the world from COVID-19.
    • The final outcome is almost unworkable; a big public relations victory for the EU.
  • EU’s Two-front Victory: The EU has also scored important gains in two other areas — WTO reform and environment issues.
    • In the name of WTO reform, the EU sought to make fundamental changes to the institutional architecture of the WTO.
    • It also sought to give a formal role to the private sector in WTO processes. And, it has secured both these objectives in the ministerial outcome.
    • The EU has also managed to create a window to pursue negotiations on issues related to trade and environment at the WTO, an issue of concern for many developing countries.


WTO Ministerial Conference 2022- India’s Failures 

  • Failure to secure a permanent solution to public stockholding: Despite having the support of more than 80 developing countries, this issue has not found mention anywhere in the ministerial outcome.
    • Instead, the WTO members have succeeded in diverting attention from India’s interest by agreeing that food security is multi-dimensional, requiring a comprehensive solution.
  • Other Failures: India has also failed in many of its other objectives, such as securing the right to raise revenues by taxing electronic transmissions.
    • In the area of fisheries subsidies, it gets two years to have suitable regulatory mechanisms in place to monitor fish catch and reporting. Otherwise, subsidies to traditional fishermen will be prohibited.
    • Although it has secured a temporary reprieve to provide subsidies for enhancing its fishing fleets, it will have to fight an uphill battle on this issue in future negotiations.
    • Further, the outcome on the TRIPS waiver bears no resemblance to its proposals.



  • Overall, the path ahead for India at the WTO is difficult. India’s negotiators need to undertake soul searching to learn lessons from the dynamics at the MC12, and make course corrections.


12th WTO Ministerial Conference 2022

12th WTO Ministerial Conference 2022

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