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WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference held in Geneva, Switzerland; Co-hosted by Kazakhstan

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WTO 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) held in GenevaThe World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) was co-hosted by Switzerland, and Kazakhstan at WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland after a gap of almost five years from June 12-June 17, 2022. It was attended by the Trade ministers of 164 nations.

  • It was chaired by Timur Suleimenov, First Deputy Chief of Staff of Kazakhstan’s President.
  • Kazakhstan was originally scheduled to host MC12 in June 2020 but the conference was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Focus of WTO MC12:

i.To review the functioning of the multilateral trading system, to make general statements and to take action on the future work of the WTO.

ii.To negotiate deals.

iii.The key areas of discussions and negotiations this year’s conference include WTO’s response to the pandemic, Fisheries subsidies negotiations, Agriculture issues including Public Stockholding for Food security, WTO Reforms and Moratorium on Custom Duties on Electronic Transmission.

WTO agrees Fishing, Food and Covid-19 Vaccine Deals:

The WTO members agreed on tackling the following food insecurity concerns, curbing harmful fishing subsidies, temporarily waiving intellectual property (IP) obligations concerning COVID-19 vaccines, deals on e-commerce, responding to pandemics and reforming the organisation itself.

i.The agreement on harmful fisheries subsidies is in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14.6 (UN SDG).

  • It prohibits subsidies contributing to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing with unprecedented transparency provisions.
  • It also includes an absolute prohibition of subsidies for fishing on the unregulated high seas.
  • The deal bans subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, with a two-year exemption for developing countries within their exclusive economic zones, or 200 nautical miles.

ii.Ministers also committed to undertake a major reform of the WTO looking into all aspects of its activities.

iii.Ministers agreed on a Declaration on the WTO response to the pandemic and preparedness for future pandemics which affirms their commitment to transparency, timely and comprehensive information sharing, and restraint on imposing export restrictions.

iv.Ministers agreed on a waiver of certain procedural obligations under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)  Agreement which allow for the swift manufacture and export of COVID-19 vaccines without the consent of the patent owner. It also maintains a functioning intellectual property framework with incentives for investment, research and transfer of technology.

  • The TRIPS waiver was proposed by India and South Africa, which were later joined by 63 more developing nations.
  • The agreement on TRIPS came into effect in January 1995. It is a multilateral agreement on IP rights such as copyright, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information or trade secrets.

v.In a joint Declaration on Food Security, WTO members committed to avoiding unjustified export restrictions on food and improving transparency on any export restrictions that do occur.

vi.The moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions (the ‘e-commerce moratorium’) was extended until MC13.

vii.The EU (European Union), Ecuador, Kenya and New Zealand agreed to work jointly to forge an inclusive Coalition of Trade Ministers on Climate.

viii.The negotiated outcomes on a series of key trade initiatives are referred to as “Geneva Package”.

Note – The eleventh Ministerial Conference took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December 2017.

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Union Minister Piyush Goyal represented India at the WTO MC12 & G-33 Ministerial Meeting

The Union Minister Piyush Goyal, Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) represented India at the WTO’s MC12 during the Thematic Session on Agriculture.

  • India pitched for protecting the interests of the developing and under-developed countries at WTO by retaining the Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) provisions, global inequities in COVID vaccination and Public Stockholding of food grains.
  • This will be the first Ministerial Conference when India sets the agenda.

G-33 Ministerial Meeting at the WTO MC12:

The Union Minister Piyush Goyal also attended the ministerial meeting of G33, a coalition of developing countries of which India is a key member. The minister held extensive talks with his counterparts from developing and least developed nations.

  • Established prior to the Cancun Ministerial in 2003, the G-33 grouping with 44 members now works as a pressure group within WTO on agriculture-related issues
  • Indonesia has organized the G-33 Virtual Informal Ministerial Meeting at the very start of the MC-12 in September 2021.

Key Points:

i.Indian side stressed the decision related to the public stockholding and special safeguard mechanism that are the key areas of concern for the developing nations.

ii.The Union Minister met the Trade Representative of the United States of America (USA), Katherine Tai.

iii.He also held a meeting with South Africa Trade Minister Ebrahim Patel in Geneva.

About WTO Ministerial Conference:

Ministers from across the world use this event to review the functioning of the multilateral trading system, make general statements and to take action on the future work of the WTO.

WTO is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations.

Recent Related News:

i.Union Minister Piyush Goyal Chaired a Meeting on Revamping Department of Commerce To Achieve $2 Trillion Export Target by 2027 and to become a future ready establishment of the Government by utilizing new age capabilities.

ii.Union Minister PiyushGoyal signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the delegation from the UAE led by Abdulla bin Touq Al-Marri, Minister of Economy, and Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, at the bilateral meeting held on 18th February 2022.

About World Trade Organization (WTO):
Director-General– Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Headquarters– Geneva, Switzerland
Establishment– 1995
The WTO has 164 members (including European Union)