Recently, member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) wrapped up the Ministerial Conference’s twelfth outing (MC12).
Key outcomes: “Geneva Package”
- Relaxing patent regulations to achieve global vaccine equity
- Ensuring food security
- According subsidies to the fisheries sector
- Continuing moratoriums relevant to e-commerce
- Together they constitute what WTO Director-General is referred to as the “Geneva Package.”
What is the WTO’s Ministerial Conference?
- The MC is at the very top of WTO’s organisational chart.
- It meets once every two years and can take decisions on all matters under any multilateral trade agreement.
- All decisions at the WTO are made collectively and through consensus among member countries at varied councils and committees.
Major debates at the MC12
- India is a significant contributor to the World Food Programme (WFP).
- India had earlier stated that it had never imposed export restrictions for procurement under the programme.
- It put forth that a blanket exemption could constrain its work in ensuring food security back home.
- In such a situation, it would have to keep its WFP commitments irrespective of its domestic needs.
- Negotiators could not reach agreements on issues such as permissible public stockholding threshold for domestic food security, domestic support to agriculture, cotton, and market access.
- India successfully managed to carve out an agreement on ELIMINATING subsidies to those engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
- The only exception for continuing subsidies for overfished stock is when they are deemed essential to rebuild them to a biologically sustainable level.
- Overfishing refers to exploiting fishes at a pace faster than they could replenish themselves — currently standing at 34% as per the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
- Further, the agreements hold that there would be no limitation on subsidies by developing or least-developed countries for fishing within their exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
- Member countries agreed on authorising the use of a patent for producing COVID-19 vaccines by a member country, without the consent of the rights holder.
- Further, it asks member countries to waive requirements, including export restrictions, set forth by WTO regulations to supply domestic markets and member countries with any number of vaccines.
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