GENEVA – (AP) – Members of the World Trade Organization have reached a series of agreements and commitments aimed at curbing overfishing, expanding production of COVID-19 vaccines in the developing world and reforming a 27-year-old trade body that has resumed heels business in recent years.
WTO Director-General Nzogi Okonjo-Iweala, after spending two sleepless nights in difficult negotiations, concluded the first WTO Ministerial Conference in four and a half years by trumpeting a new sense of cooperation at a time when the world has faced crises like growing food insecurity, war in Ukraine and a once-in-a-century pandemic that has claimed millions of lives.
“The comprehensive agreements you have reached will make a difference in the lives of people around the world,” said Okonjo-Iweala, who has been in the job for 15 months. “The results show that the WTO is indeed capable of responding to the urgencies of our times.”
Among the main achievements of the 164-member trade body is an agreement, which fell short of all of its original ambitions, to ban support for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and to ban support for fishing in overexploited stocks in the world’s oceans. The WTO chief said on Friday the deal was an “important first step” to reduce government subsidies and overcapacity – too many operators – in the fishing industry.
“WTO members have for the first time reached an agreement with environmental sustainability at its core,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “It is also about the livelihoods of the 260 million people who depend directly or indirectly on sea fishing.”
More controversial was the agreement on a watered-down plan to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, which went against advocacy groups who say it didn’t go far enough – and might even do more harm than good.
“The TRIPS waiver compromise will contribute to ongoing efforts to concentrate and diversify vaccine manufacturing capacity so that a crisis in one region does not leave others isolated,” Okonjo-Iweala said of the release. waiver of intellectual property protections.
Aid group Doctors Without Borders has called it a ‘devastating global failure for the health of people around the world’ that the deal stalled ahead of early calls to include other tools to tackle the disease. coronavirus, including treatments and tests.
The meeting also agreed to lift export restrictions that have weighed on the UN’s World Food Programme, which is trying to offset the impact of rising food prices and the fallout from Russia’s war. in Ukraine on shipments of wheat, barley and other foodstuffs from a key producer of theirs.
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