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From leadership to regulation on illegal fishing: All that India managed to win at the WTO

economy | IST

From leadership to regulation on illegal fishing: All that India managed to win at the WTO


Union Minister Piyush Goyal said this will be the first Ministerial Conference when India set the agenda. After the WTO meet, he said solutions were discussed and consensus was achieved on several issues including fisheries, food security and COVID-19 preparedness.

From emerging as a leader on an international platform to getting approval on the regulation on illegal fishing and focusing on the extension of the e-commerce moratorium — India received 100 percent success in the recently concluded World Trade Organization's (WTO) meet, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said on Friday.
"There is not one issue for which we need to return to India with any kind of worry," Goyal said after attending WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva.
Following the key meeting on Friday, the WTO's 164 members approved a series of trade agreements that included commitments on fish and pledges on health, agriculture, and food security after more than five gruelling days of negotiations.
Goyal said some countries acted to hinder the process, but in the end, "global consensus" was achieved on many issues. "Team India put forth its position very boldly. We became the voice of the developing world," he said, adding, "This will be the first Ministerial Conference when we set the agenda."
Here's a look at what India has gained from the WTO meeting:
1. Rights of fishermen: India's demand to stop unregulated and illegal fishing on high seas was accepted by the WTO. For the first time, subsides on overfishing, deep-sea fishing, and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing seem to have been addressed through the proposed pact.
Calling it a "major victory for India", Goyal said: "Some countries are experts in this. They are responsible for finishing fish worldwide with deep-sea fishing. The fisheries agreement, for now, is limited to action against unregulated fishing. (There has been) no stay on discipline subsidies for now." He said India doesn't fish in deep seas anyway, and traditional fishermen don't engage in illegal fishing.
2. Vaccine equity: Important decisions regarding the COVID-19 response, and pandemic preparedness were taken during the meeting. Goyal said India would aid vaccine manufacturing by developing countries that do not have the technology.
"We will help developing countries make vaccines. The decision on diagnostics and therapeutics is likely in the next six months... Some countries will make (vaccines), and vaccines will be exported to some countries (lacking technology) for five years... The situation will be analysed after five years," Goyal said.
3. TRIPS waiver: He also mentioned the decision on TRIPS waiver was taken unanimously to help other nations make vaccines. TRIPS is short for WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. The agreement aims to be "part of the wider national and international action to address public health problems afflicting developing countries and least-developed countries".
This “waiver” removes limitations on exports under compulsory licence to countries that cannot manufacture the pharmaceuticals themselves, as per WTO. The solution found after rigorous discussion between the United States, the European Union, South Africa, and India has been accepted by the WTO, Goyal said, adding, "all in all, we have gotten a good package".
4. E-commerce moratorium: Goyal also raised concerns of many Indian IT and electronics companies regarding the e-commerce moratorium. Since 1998, the moratorium has been extended time and again.
"They are worried that the e-commerce moratorium is being extended every two years, but there has been no work on it... No concrete steps have been taken. India put forward the issue strongly and said that postponing the agreement would not work. There should be clarity on it. India also wants to have free access to markets...," he said. Goyal said that "we were successful in extending the moratorium, but with a deadline — that by March 24, concrete steps to address this issue must be taken".
5. Food security: Goyal further mentioned the "good" decision to get all nations to help vulnerable countries through the World Food Program. He said "India has never refused aid to (other countries under) the World Food Program... India had sent aid to Afghanistan..."
Goyal said all countries, which aim to help other vulnerable countries, will be given the provision to consider their capacity and situation before exporting products. "India's suggestion was that aiding nations can take stock of their food requirement," Goyal said.
The nine-year gap
The members of the WTO have reached a pact after a gap of about nine years. It was in 2013, at the Bali ministerial conference of the WTO, that the member countries inked the trade facilitation agreement to promote seamless movement of goods across the global borders.
The deals at the WTO were ground out over five days of bargaining at a conference of more than 100 trade ministers that was seen as a test of the ability of nations to strike multilateral trade deals amid geopolitical tensions heightened by the Russia-Ukraine war. The WTO's rules dictate that all decisions are taken by consensus, with any single member able to exercise a veto.
With inputs from Abhimanyu Sharma
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