WTO Issues / Differences at WTO
The twelfth WTO (World Trade Organisation) Ministerial Conference (MC12) is taking place during 12-15 June 2022 in Geneva to take a call on crucial issues impacting trade and livelihood. Ministerial Conference is the highest decision-making body of the WTO. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to the global economy and trade. WTO’s response to the pandemic remains the top priority for MC12.
Key areas of discussions and negotiations:
1. Agriculture Subsidies – It is a challenging subject to negotiate
Developing Countries Stand – Want a new method to calculate subsidies.
Developed Countries Stand – Refusal to engage on the Joint proposal.
2. Public Stock Holding (PSH)
Developing Countries Stand – Allow food grains exports from PSH for international food aid. PSH is a policy tool used by governments to purchase, stockpile, and distribute food to the poor. e.g., the Indian Government buys crops like rice and wheat from the farmers at the minimum support price, which is generally higher than the prevailing market price. The Government then stores and sells these at a low price to ensure food security to more than 800 million poor people. However, Agreement of Agriculture rules limit the ability of the Government to purchase food at government-set prices. Hence seeking a permanent solution to the issue of food security is India’s foremost concern.
Developed Countries Stand – To decide by the next ministerial.
3. TRIPS Waiver
Developing Countries Stand – TRIPS Waiver for vaccines, therapeutics. This is a proposal to waive patent protections on COVID-19 vaccines temporarily.
Developed Countries Stand – Under pressure from the pharma lobby, most developed countries argued for solutions which essentially meant opposing the proposal. Also, wants export restrictions and increased market access.
4. Fish Subsidies – Fishing is a big corporate business. The fish reserves are being exploited at a pace where the fish population cannot replenish itself.
Developing Countries Stand – Countries not engaged in distant water fishing should be completely exempted from overfishing subsidy prohibitions. Fishing beyond 200 nautical miles from the seashores of a country is termed distant water fishing.
Developed Countries Stand – EU and the US against blanket exceptions for developing counties.
5. WTO Reforms
Developing Countries Stand – Ensure continuation of consensus principle and S&DT. Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) and Special and Different Treatment (S&DT) ensure flexibility and policy space for developing and poor countries.
Developed Countries Stand – Do away with the WTO consensus principle and allow private sector participation.