•   Thursday, 11 Aug, 2022
WTO nears landmark global  deal  after  9 yrs

WTO nears landmark global  deal  after  9 yrs

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After a full night of intense negotiations that continued through Thursday, the 164 member countries finally sealed a package deal at the 12th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at Geneva with India leading the course.

In a first major agreement in nine years, the deal covers around eight key issues of importance for developing countries like patents waiver, food security, and balanced outcomes on WTO reforms and fisheries subsidies.

The hectic talks that put to test commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal’s negotiation skills saw several trade-offs between the developed and the developing countries with discussions going well past the 3pm deadline.

New Delhi successfully defended its right to extend subsidies to Indian fishermen, with the contentious clause removed from the fisheries subsidies text at the last minute. In turn, India agreed to an extension of the moratorium on customs duty on electronic imports by one and a half years. India’s key demand for a permanent solution on public stockholding of foodgrains has been agreed to be taken up in the next ministerial meeting.

The deal on patents waiver on Covid-19 vaccines will allow India and other eligible developing countries to manufacture and export vaccines without the requirement of a compulsory license for a period of five years, which New Delhi believes will help its companies set up more manufacturing plants in several countries.

“India was at the forefront of finding solutions to issues dividing the world…We took some solid decisions probably after seven years for the first time, subject to a few issues being sorted out in the next few minutes… India is convinced that this will turn out to be one of the most successful ministerials that the WTO has seen in a long time," said Goyal to reporters, even as some outcomes were still being negotiated.

As talks broke down on Wednesday evening, India actively took up the facilitator’s role and reached out to several countries including the US and South Africa to work out deliverables in the ongoing ministerial. Goyal held a slew of bilateral and small group meetings to get all countries on board amid a looming deadlock at the meet.

“The progress made since yesterday and running into discussions until today, and positively with which everyone engaged is truly a matter of celebration," said Goyal.

A per the revised draft fisheries text reviewed by news, the two contentious clauses that proposed a ban on the listed overfishing subsidies in seven years has been completely taken off. India was seeking the transition period of 25 years instead of 7 years to withdraw such support. This comes in the backdrop of several Indian fishermen travelling to Geneva and holding protests.

In the final leg of negotiations, India clearly outlined that it will agree to extended the moratorium on customs duty on digital imports if the “ultimate package of MC12" would be acceptable to the interest of INdia and the developing nations.

The agreement says that the current moratorium on customs duty on digital imports will continue will December 31 , 2023. So far the moratorium was being extended every two years since 1998, that has prevented countries from imposing any tariffs digital or electronic imports or transmissions. However, this time, India has limited the extension to only one and a half years. “Should the ministerial conference 13 be delayed beyond March 31 2024, the moratorium will expire on that date unless ministers or the general council take a decision to extend," read the final text reviewed by news.

In agriculture India has agreed to no export restrictions on procurement by the UNited Nations World Food Programme on the condition that it will have the flexibility to restrict it in view of any domestic food security situation. India’s other demand of allowing exports from its public stockholdings to countries in need on a government to government basis will be discussed along with other agriculture issues in the next ministerial conference.

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