The World Trade Organization has approved a series of new trade agreements.
Image: Reuters/Fabrice Coffrini/Pool
World Economic Forum - 17 Jun 2022
  • The World Trade Organization has approved a package of six trade agreements, including commitments on reversing over-fishing and pledges on health and food security.
  • The deal, reached on a partial waiver of intellectual property rights, will allow developing countries to produce and export COVID-19 vaccines.
  • But some critics say the waiver does not expand enough on an existing exemption in WTO rules and is too narrow by not covering therapeutics and diagnostics.
  • Observers hope the package will boost the credibility and strength of the WTO system.

The World Trade Organization's 164 members approved a series of trade agreements that included commitments on fish and pledges on health and food security after more than five gruelling days of negotiations.

The deals 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 Ukraine war.

Delegates cheered after they passed the package of six agreements just before dawn on Friday.

Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told them: "The package of agreements you have reached will make a difference to the lives of people around the world. The outcomes demonstrate that the WTO is in fact capable of responding to emergencies of our time."

Earlier she had appealed to WTO members to consider the "delicate balance" required after nearly round-the-clock talks that were extended for an extra two days and have at times been charged with anger and accusations.

At one stage, a series of demands from India, which sees itself as the champion of poor farmers and fishermen as well as developing countries, appeared set to paralyse talks but accommodations were found, trade sources said.

The WTO's rules dictate that all decisions are taken by consensus, with any single member able to exercise a veto.

The package, which Okonjo-Iweala called "unprecedented", included the two highest profile deals under consideration - on fisheries and on a partial waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights for COVID-19 vaccines.

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