WTO makes final push for trade deals

Commerce minister sees no result from meeting due to lack of consensus

REUTERS June 16, 2022


The World Trade Organisation on Wednesday extended its negotiations by a day amid growing doubts they would find consensus on any change to global trade rules and India adamant it would not yield on food, fisheries and vaccines.

During the WTO’s ministerial conference this week, its first major meeting in over four years originally set to end on June 15, the 164-member body is seeking to agree on a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, a reduction of fishing subsidies, pledges on food security and the launch of an internal reform.

“We think we are going towards a no-result ministerial,” Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told the more than 100 ministers present that time was running out and that they should “go the extra mile” to converge on the full range of issues.

Delegates at the meeting said that India, which has a history of blocking multilateral trade deals, appeared far from ready to compromise.

That view was supported by comments Indian Commerce Minister Shri Piyush Goyal made in closed sessions and which New Delhi chose to publish.

India and South Africa and other developing countries have sought a waiver of intellectual property rights for vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for over a year, but faced opposition from several developed nations with major pharmaceutical producers.

A provisional deal between major parties – India, South Africa, the US and the EU – emerged in May, but drew criticism from campaign groups that it falls short of what is needed.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2022.

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