World Trade Organization

World Trade Organization

News: The World Trade Organization’s 164 members (12th Ministerial Conference) in a historic step approved a series of trade agreements including commitments on fish, a partial waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights for COVID-19 vaccines, and pledges on health and food security.

What is the WTO and the Ministerial Conference?
 The World Trade Organization is the only international organization that deals with the rules of trade between countries.
 Founded in 1995, the WTO is run by its 164 members, and according to its rules, all decisions are taken through consensus and any member can exercise a veto.
 The Ministerial Conference is the WTO’s top decision-making body and usually meets every two years. All members of the WTO are involved in the MC and they can take decisions on all matters covered under any multilateral trade agreements.

What agreements were reached?

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. This move will ensure developing countries can now manufacture them domestically.

Curtailing harmful fishing subsidies
 The WTO passed a multilateral agreement that would curb ‘harmful’ subsidies on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing for the next four years. This is done in order to protect global fish stocks.
 Agreement on the same, which establishes new trading rules, is the second multilateral agreement in WTO’s history.
 It also intends to protect livelihoods of 260 million people who depend directly or indirectly on marine fisheries.

Food Security
 Members agreed to a binding decision to exempt food purchased by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) for humanitarian purposes, from any export restrictions.

Role played by India:
 India has been able to secure a favourable outcome at the WTO after many years, despite a strong global campaign against Indian farmers and fishermen. 

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