WTO ministers reach agreements on fisheries, food and coronavirus vaccines

Geneva – WTO members reached a series of deals and commitments aimed at curbing poaching, expanding production of COVID-19 vaccines in the developing world, and overhauling a 27-year-old trade body that has bounced back in recent years.

After two sleepless nights in difficult negotiations, WTO Director-General Nzoji Okonjo-Iweala concluded the first WTO Ministerial Conference in 4-1/2 years by promoting a new sense of cooperation at a time when the world has faced crises such as rising growth. Food insecurity, the war in Ukraine and a once-in-a-century epidemic that has claimed millions of lives.

“The package of agreements you reached will make a difference in the lives of people all over the world,” said Okonjo-Iweala, who has been in the business for 15 months. “The results show that the WTO is in fact capable of responding to the emergencies of our time.”

Among the major achievements of the 164-member trade body was an agreement, which fell short of full early ambitions, to ban support for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and to ban subsidies for fishing in overfished stocks in the world’s oceans. The head of the World Trade Organization said Friday that the agreement takes a “first but important step” to reduce government subsidies and overcapacity – many operators – in the fishing industry.

“For the first time, members of the World Trade Organization have entered into an agreement with environmental sustainability at its core,” said Okonjo-Iweala. “This also relates to the livelihoods of the 260 million people who depend directly or indirectly on marine fisheries.”

Most contentious was the agreement on a watered-down plan to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, which ran counter to advocacy groups saying it didn’t go far enough — and could do more harm than good.

“The TRIPS waiver settlement will contribute to ongoing efforts to focus and diversify vaccine manufacturing capacity so that a crisis in one region does not leave other regions cut off,” Okonjo-Iweala said of the waiver of intellectual property protection.

Aid group Doctors Without Borders described it as a “global failure so devastating for the health of people around the world” that the agreement fell short of early calls for the inclusion of other tools to fight the coronavirus including treatments and tests.

The meeting also agreed to lift export restrictions that affected the United Nations World Food Program, which is trying to offset the impact of rising food prices and the fallout from the Russian war in Ukraine on shipments of wheat, caddis, and other food items from a major producer of the fruit. they.

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