Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The World Trade Organization (WTO) has reached agreements on fishing subsidies and COVID-19 vaccine patents waiver on Friday.
WTO head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stressed that the organisation agreed on an “unprecedented package of deliverables” that will impact people’s lives across the globe, France24 reports.
The talks at WTO headquarters started on Sunday and were to be wrapped up by Wednesday, but lasted until the early morning hours of Friday.
“Not in a long while has the WTO seen such a significant number of multilateral outcomes,” Okonjo-Iweala pointed out and added that the organisation also struck deals on internal reform, pandemic response and e-commerce.
“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 the emergencies of our time,” she stated.
The WTO ministerial conference that took place in Buenos Aires at the end of 2017 was a let-down as participants struck no important agreements.
Okonjo-Iweala took the helm of the WTO in March last year and announced plans to revitalise the sclerotic body as a person who can get members to agree on big issues.
She added that the WTO could still become relevant if it manages to adopt agreements on important global issues.
While some delegations accused India of being uncompromising on all topics that were discussed, Piyush Goyal, Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry, stressed “India is not a roadblock on anything… people are realising that we were the ones who actually helped create the sole consensus.”
The proposed patents waiver on COVID-19 vaccines was the second big issue discussed at the WTO ministerial meeting.
Some WTO members who host large pharmaceutical companies, including Switzerland and the UK, opposed parts of the proposal, while the companies themselves expressed concerns that the deal would have negative effects on innovation and added that it no longer makes sense because vaccine supply is no longer an issue.
Simon Manley, UK Permanent Representative to the WTO, announced on Thursday evening that Britain was “now ready to join the consensus” after the wording of the agreement was improved and clarified.