In News: The recently held 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO agreed to a series of deals relating to the temporary waivers on Covid-19 vaccines, a moratorium on e-commerce trade, food security and setting limits on harmful fishing subsidies.
- Together these agreements are referred to as the “Geneva Package”.
- 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.
- The WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference was held in Geneva
Curtailing harmful fishing subsidies
- A multilateral agreement was passed to curb ‘harmful’ subsidies on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing for the next four years, to better protect global fish stocks.
- Overfishing refers to exploiting fishes at a pace faster than they could replenish themselves — currently standing at 34% as per the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
- Declining fish stocks threaten to worsen poverty and endanger communities that rely on aquatic creatures for their livelihood and food security.
Global 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.
- However, countries would be allowed to restrict food supplies to ensure domestic food security needs.
Covid-19 vaccine production
- Members agreed to temporarily waive intellectual property patents on Covid-19 vaccines without the consent of the patent holder for 5 years, so that they can more easily manufacture them domestically
- The waiver did not cover all medical tools like diagnostics and treatments
- All members agreed to continue the long standing moratorium on custom duties on e-commerce transmissions until the subsequent Ministerial Conference
India’s interest secured
- India and other developing countries were able to win some concessions on fishing subsidies
- They successfully lobbied to remove a section of the proposal that would threaten some subsidies which would assist small-scale artisanal fishing
- The agreements hold that there would be no limitation on subsidies granted or maintained by developing or least-developed countries for fishing within their exclusive economic zones (EEZ)
Current moratoriums on electronic transmissions been extended
- Member countries agreed to extend the current moratorium on not imposing customs duties on electronic transmission (ET) until MC13
- ETs consist of online deliveries such as music, e-books, films, software and video games. They differ from other cross-border e-commerce since they are ordered online but not delivered physically.
- Proponents had put forth that the moratorium would help maintain certainty and predictability for businesses and consumers particularly in the context of the pandemic.
- India and South Africa, citing data from the UN Conference on Trade and Development submitted that extending duty-free market access due to the moratorium resulted in a loss of $10 billion per annum globally — 95% of which was borne by developing countries.
Previous Year Questions
Q.1) Consider the following statements: (2016)
- India has ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of WTO.
- TFA is a part of WTO’s Bali Ministerial Package of 2013.
- TFA came into force in January 2016.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- 1 and 2 only
- 1 and 3 only
- 2 and 3 only
- 1, 2 and 3