The World Trade Organization adopts an « unprecedented » package of measures


The 164 member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO) succeeded on Friday June 17 in agreeing on a package of measures ranging from the elimination of fisheries subsidies to the temporary lifting of patents on anti-Covid vaccines. , to food insecurity, an outcome » unprecedented « pulled off after five days of intense negotiations.

» It has been a long time since the WTO has achieved so many multilateral results. The results demonstrate that the WTO is capable of responding to the urgencies of our time”said WTO Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. However, the WTO did not immediately publish the final texts.

The conference aimed not only to tackle the food insecurity created by Russia, but also to remove subsidies that facilitate illegal fishing and empty the oceans, temporarily lift patents that protect anti-Covid vaccines or even reform the WTO itself.

Thirty-six hours longer than expected

But when the meeting started on Sunday, the hope of concluding on all these subjects was slim, as the differences between delegations remained important. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala herself set the bar for success with the adoption of one or two texts.

The ministerial meeting lasted almost 36 hours longer than expected. It was finally around 3:00 GMT that the Director General knocked down the hammer which marks the formal adoption of the texts.

The document adopted on food insecurity stresses the importance “not to impose export prohibitions or restrictions” which are contrary to WTO rules. It calls for any emergency measures introduced to address food security concerns, such as an export freeze, “be temporary, targeted and transparent”, and are notified to the WTO. A second text protects food purchases by the World Food Program from restrictions that may be imposed by certain countries.

Sustainable fishing

Until almost the last minute, the agreement on fishing remained uncertain, and even if the text is watered down compared to the initial ambitions, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala claimed success.

This was one of the key topics of this ministerial. Negotiations on the subject were launched more than 20 years ago and are part of the UN’s sustainable development goals. In particular, it is a question of prohibiting certain forms of subsidies which may encourage illegal taking.

To help developing countries, the WTO wants to set up a fund to provide technical assistance and build their capacity so that these countries can implement the agreement and help their fishermen switch to more sustainable fishing. .

India reluctant

After two and a half years of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, the Member States also succeeded in agreeing on Friday on the facilitation of trade in medical goods necessary for the fight against pandemics. An important subject to prevent the trade of ingredients and materials from being restricted when they are most needed.

The temporary lifting of patents protecting anti-Covid vaccines intended for developing countries was also adopted. This subject has been the subject of bitter battles between the pharmaceutical lobby, developing countries and numerous NGOs. The idea is to facilitate the production of serum.

The Member States have also renewed the moratorium on electronic transactions, despite the reluctance of India and South Africa, who regret seeing the customs potential of these exchanges escaping them.

The five days of intense negotiations were marked by Indian intransigence on several issues, including subsidies that contribute to overfishing. » India has always been a reluctant trading partner. It is known for its reluctance to sign free trade agreements,” said Harsh V. Pant, professor at King’s College London.


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