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  • 22 June, 2022

  • 5 Min Read



The 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) concluded, recently in Geneva.

The main areas of discussion were:

  1. WTO’s response to the pandemic.
  2. Fisheries subsidies negotiations.
  3. Agriculture issues including Public Stockholding for Food Security.
  4. WTO Reforms and Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmission.

The 164-member of World Trade Organization held its first ministerial conference in nearly five years, due to Covid-19 postponements.

Key Outcomes of the 12th Ministerial Conference.

WTO Reform

  • Members confirm the foundational principles of the WTO and stick to an open and inclusive process to reform all its functions, from deliberation to negotiation and also to monitoring.
  • They also committed to work towards having a well-functioning dispute settlement system by 2024 that is accessible to all members.

Agreement on Global Food Security

  • Members agreed to a binding decision to exempt food purchased by the UN’s World Food Programme for humanitarian purposes, from any export restrictions.
  • In light of the global food shortages and rising prices of food caused by the war between Russia and Ukraine, the group’s members issued a declaration on the importance of trade in global food security and that they would avoid any bans on food exports.
  • However, countries would be allowed to restrict some food supplies to ensure domestic food security needs.

Agreement on E-commerce Transactions

  • From 2017 to 2020, developing countries lost a potential tariff revenue of around USD 50 billion on imports from only 49 digital products.
  • WTO members had first agreed not to impose customs duties on electronic transmissions in 1998 when the internet was still relatively new. This moratorium has been periodically extended since then.
  • However, all members agreed to continue the long-standing moratorium on customs duties on e-commerce transmissions until the subsequent Ministerial Conference or until 31st March 2024, depending on whichever comes first.

Agreement on ‘Covid-19’ Vaccine Production

  • WTO members have agreed to temporarily waive intellectual property patents on Covid-19 vaccines without the consent of the patent holder for five years so that they can easily manufacture them domestically.

Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies

  • The Fisheries agreement has put a curb on the subsidies that contribute to illegal and unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. However, the subsidies given by both developing and developed nations to the fishers fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone (200 nautical miles of the shore) have not been curbed, even though it’s contributing to overcapacity and over-exploitation. This will be reviewed in four years.

Issues Raised by India:

On WTO Reforms:

  • India believes that WTO reform discussions must be focused on strengthening its fundamental principles.
  • At this time, reserving Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT), which includes consensus-based decision making, non-discrimination, and special and differential treatment, should not result in the preservation of inherited disparities or aggravate the imbalances.
  • India takes the first step to suggest reforms for developing countries for strengthening the WTO to Promote Development and Inclusion.

E-commerce Transactions:

  • India had requested the WTO to review the extension of the moratorium on customs duties on e-commerce transactions, which include digitally-traded goods and services.
  • It argued that developing countries faced the worst of the financial consequences of such a moratorium.

On Food Security:

  • WTO should reconsider subsidy rules for government-backed food purchasing programs which is aimed at feeding poor citizens in developing and poor countries.


World trade organization came into the picture in 1995. Initially, it was the Agreement on Trade and Tariff that was framed during the second world war. Its headquarter is based in Geneva.

  • Its objective is to carry trade smoothly, freely, and predictably.
  • It has 164 members which account for 98% of world trade.

Source: The Hindu

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