WTO and India

Outcomes of the WTO Ministerial Conference

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WTO

Mains level : Read the attached story

Recently, member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) wrapped up the Ministerial Conference’s twelfth outing (MC12).

Key outcomes: “Geneva Package”

  • The conference has secured key agreements on
  1. Relaxing patent regulations to achieve global vaccine equity
  2. Ensuring food security
  3. According subsidies to the fisheries sector
  4. Continuing moratoriums relevant to e-commerce
  • Together they constitute what WTO Director-General is referred to as the “Geneva Package.”
  • India saw some successes at the MC12 with respect to the above mentioned sectors.

What is the WTO’s Ministerial Conference?

  • The MC is at the very top of WTO’s organisational chart.
  • It meets once every two years and can take decisions on all matters under any multilateral trade agreement.
  • Unlike other organisations, such as the International Monetary Fund or World Bank, WTO does not delegate power to a board of directors or an organisational chief.
  • All decisions at the WTO are made collectively and through consensus among member countries at varied councils and committees.
  • This year’s conference took place in Geneva, Switzerland.

Major debates at the MC12

(1) Agriculture

  • India is a significant contributor to the World Food Programme (WFP).
  • India had earlier stated that it had never imposed export restrictions for procurement under the programme.
  • It put forth that a blanket exemption could constrain its work in ensuring food security back home.
  • In such a situation, it would have to keep its WFP commitments irrespective of its domestic needs.
  • Negotiators could not reach agreements on issues such as permissible public stockholding threshold for domestic food security, domestic support to agriculture, cotton, and market access.

(2) Fisheries

  • India successfully managed to carve out an agreement on ELIMINATING subsidies to those engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
  • The only exception for continuing subsidies for overfished stock is when they are deemed essential to rebuild them to a biologically sustainable level.
  • 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.
  • Further, the agreements hold that there would be no limitation on subsidies by developing or least-developed countries for fishing within their exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

(3) Patent relaxations

  • Member countries agreed on authorising the use of a patent for producing COVID-19 vaccines by a member country, without the consent of the rights holder.
  • Further, it asks member countries to waive requirements, including export restrictions, set forth by WTO regulations to supply domestic markets and member countries with any number of vaccines.
  • The agreement, however, comes too little, too late for economically poorer countries.

 

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