clearn.png
Thursday August 11th, 2022 11:52PM

WTO ministers reach deals on fisheries, food, COVID vaccines

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

GENEVA (AP) — After all-night talks, members of the World Trade Organization early Friday reached a string of deals and commitments aimed at protecting stocks of ocean fish, broadening production of COVID-19 vaccines in the developing world, improving food security and reforming a 27-year-old trade body that has been back on its heels in recent years.

WTO Director-General Nzogi Okonjo-Iweala, after a pair of sleepless nights in rugged negotiations, concluded the WTO’s first ministerial conference in 4-1/2 years by trumpeting a new sense of cooperation at a time when the world faces crises like Russia's war in Ukraine and a once-in-a-century pandemic that has taken millions of lives.

“The package agreements you have reached will make a difference to the lives of people around the world,” said Okonjo-Iweala, landing what she called an “unprecedented package of deliverables" after 15 months in the job. “The outcomes demonstrate that the WTO is in fact capable of responding to emergencies of our time.”

There were tears of joy and hugs exchanged, applause echoed through the WTO's concrete halls and many ministers broke out into renditions of “Happy Birthday” to celebrate belatedly the Monday birthdays of Okonjo-Iweala and Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal after the deals were finalized.

The agreements could breathe new life into a trade body that faced repeated criticism from the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump, which accused the WTO of a lack of fairness to the United States, and was caught in a growing U.S. rivalry with China. In recent years, Washington has incapacitated the WTO's version of an appeals court that rules on international trade disputes.

The WTO operates by consensus, meaning that all its 164 members must agree on its deals — or at least not get in the way. The talks at times took place in backrooms or in side chats because some delegates didn't want to be in the same space as their counterparts from Russia — as a way to protest President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, which has had fallout far beyond the battlefield, such as on food and fuel prices.

Among the main achievements Friday was an accord, which fell short of early ambitions, to prohibit both support for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and for fishing in overtaxed stocks in the world’s oceans. It marked the WTO's first significant deal since one in 2013 that cut red tape on treatment of goods crossing borders — and arguably one of its most impactful.

“WTO members have for the first time, concluded an agreement with environmental sustainability at its heart,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “This is also about the livelihoods of the 260 million people who depend directly or indirectly on marine fisheries.”

She said the deal takes a first step to curb government subsidies and overcapacity — too many operators — in the fishing industry. But India and some allies won concessions that scrapped an entire chapter from a proposal that could have threatened some types of subsidies favoring small-scale, artisanal fishing.

The fisheries agreement, which focused on subsidies for types of fishing that are unsustainable or illegal, came with a late addition that will limit its validity to four years unless new rules to fight overcapacity and overfishing are addressed. That was a clause sought by some African, Caribbean and Pacific Island countries.

More controversial was an agreement on a watered-down plan to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, which ran afoul of advocacy groups that say it did not go far enough — and could even do more harm than good.

But Okonjo-Iweala said the waiver of intellectual property protections “will contribute to ongoing efforts to concentrate and diversify vaccine manufacturing capacity so that a crisis in one region does not leave others cut off.”

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai hailed a “concrete and meaningful outcome to get more safe and effective vaccines to those who need it most.”

Her announcement a year ago that the U.S. would break with many other developed countries with strong pharmaceutical industries to work toward a waiver of WTO rules on COVID-19 vaccines served as an impetus to talks around a broader waiver sought by India and South Africa.

But some advocacy groups were seething. Aid group Doctors Without Borders called it a “devastating global failure for people’s health worldwide” that the agreement stopped short of including other tools to fight COVID-19, including treatments and tests.

“The conduct of rich countries at the WTO has been utterly shameful," said Max Lawson, co-chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance and head of inequality policy at Oxfam.

He said the European Union, United States, Britain and Switzerland blocked a stronger text.

“This so-called compromise largely reiterates developing countries’ existing rights to override patents in certain circumstances,” Lawson said.

Big pharmaceutical companies weren't happy that the vaccine waiver was approved, arguing that it sends a negative message to researchers and innovators who developed COVID-19 vaccines with blistering speed.

“The decision is a disservice to the scientists that left no stone unturned and undermines manufacturing partnerships on every continent,” said Thomas Cueni, director-general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations.

Goyal, the Indian minister whose tough negotiating stance had frustrated some developed countries, said the ministerial meeting was a “big boost for multilateralism” and showed progress on issues — like fisheries — that have been lagging for decades.

“India is 100% satisfied with the outcome,” he told reporters in Geneva. "I am not returning to India with any worries.”

Ministers also agreed to avoid imposing some export restrictions that have weighed on the U.N.'s World Food Program, which is trying to offset the impact of rising food prices and fallout from the war in Ukraine on shipments of wheat, barely and other food staples from the key producing country.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Health, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
WTO ministers reach deals on fisheries, food, COVID vaccines
World Trade Organization members have reached a string of deals and commitments aimed to limit overfishing, broaden production of COVID-19 vaccines in the developing world and reform a 27-year-old trade body that has been back on its heels in recent years
1:57AM ( 6 minutes ago )
Freedom riders' 1947 convictions vacated in North Carolina
Legendary civil rights leader Bayard Rustin and three other men will have their sentences vacated posthumously
1:35AM ( 29 minutes ago )
Alabama church shooting kills 2, wounds 1; suspect held
Police in Alabama say a single gunman opened fired on a small group meeting at a suburban church, killing two people and injuring a third before being taken into custody
1:19AM ( 44 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
AP Interview: Biden says a recession is 'not inevitable'
President Joe Biden says the American people are “really, really down” after a tumultuous two years with the coronavirus pandemic, volatility in the economy and now surging gasoline prices that are hitting family budgets
9:44PM ( 4 hours ago )
Florida only state not preordering toddler COVID-19 vaccines
Florida is the only state that hasn’t preordered COVID-19 vaccines for toddlers in anticipation of their final approval by the federal government
8:12PM ( 5 hours ago )
White House clams up on Biden COVID-19 testing regimen
In an abrupt change of course, the White House is now declining to comment on the frequency of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 testing regimen
7:34PM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Health
Costa Rica chaos a warning that ransomware threat remains
Costa Rica has been reeling from unprecedented ransomware attacks disrupting everyday life in the Central American nation for the last two months
12:26AM ( 1 hour ago )
Australia's new prime minister considers visit to Ukraine
Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says he will take advice on whether to accept President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's invitation to visit Ukraine during an upcoming European trip
12:21AM ( 1 hour ago )
Police: Amazon fisherman confesses to killing missing men
Brazilian authorities say a fisherman confessed to killing a British journalist and an Indigenous expert in Brazil’s remote Amazon region and took police to a site where human remains were recovered
9:17PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP World News
Takeaways from AP interview: Biden on inflation, US psyche
President Joe Biden sat down with The Associated Press to discuss the state of the economy, his concerns about the national mood, and his commitment to standing up to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine
12:31AM ( 1 hour ago )
FIFA picks 2026 World Cup cities, predicts US `No 1 sport'
Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia and Seattle and Kansas City, Missouri, were the newcomers among the 11 U.S. sites picked to host games at the 2026 World Cup, while Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver, Nashville, Tennessee, and Orlando, Florida, were left out
12:06AM ( 1 hour ago )
Police: 2 dead, 1 hurt in church shooting; suspect detained
Police say a lone suspect fired on a small group meeting at a church near one of Alabama’s major cities, fatally wounding two people and injuring a third victim
11:55PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
Fed's aggressive rate hikes raise likelihood of a recession
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has pledged to do whatever it takes to curb inflation, now raging at a four-decade high and defying the Fed’s efforts so far to tame it
5:34PM ( 8 hours ago )
Wall Street tumbles on fears for economy as more rates rise
Wall Street tumbled Thursday as worries roared back to the fore that the world’s fragile economy may buckle under higher interest rates
5:32PM ( 8 hours ago )
Wall Street stumbles 3.3% as fears of a recession grow
Stocks slumped again on Wall Street Thursday, erasing another 3.3% from the S&P 500 and bringing the index 23.6% below the peak it reached in January
4:19PM ( 9 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
Freedom riders' 1947 convictions vacated in North Carolina
Legendary civil rights leader Bayard Rustin and three other men will have their sentences vacated posthumously
1:35AM ( 29 minutes ago )
Alabama church shooting kills 2, wounds 1; suspect held
Police in Alabama say a single gunman opened fired on a small group meeting at a suburban church, killing two people and injuring a third before being taken into custody
1:19AM ( 45 minutes ago )
China launches high-tech aircraft carrier in naval milestone
China has launched its third aircraft carrier, the first such ship to be designed and built entirely within the country
1:10AM ( 54 minutes ago )
After good rise, Tatum, Celtics fall flat late in NBA Finals
When Jayson Tatum made consecutive baskets to cap a game-opening Boston blitz, TD Garden was at its absolute loudest
1:05AM ( 59 minutes ago )
Warriors beat Celtics 103-90 to win 4th NBA title in 8 years
The Golden State Warriors are NBA champions once again, topping the Boston Celtics 103-90 for their fourth title in the last eight seasons
1:04AM ( 1 hour ago )