What is the impending WTO conference and why is it important for India?

The WTO's yearly Ministerial Conference will take place later this month. The meeting will bring together trade ministers from all member countries to work out the kinks in the global trade ecosystem.

(4) What is the impending WTO conference and why is it important for India?

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Ministerial Conference, the organization’s highest decision-making body, establishes worldwide trade standards.

As a result, the summit establishes the framework for bilateral and international trade and investment. Decisions made at the event have long-term implications for shipping volumes, trade flows, customs and monetary policies, and, as a result, for nations’ economic development.

Also Read: Rapid, Global and Equitable Vaccination Must to Revamp Global Trade: WTO

While it is generally conducted every two years, the forthcoming summit in late November will be significant because it will be held for the first time since 2017. Because of COVID, the 2020 summit has been cancelled.

Moneycontrol examines the problems in depth, from governments’ rights to stockpile food grains for public distribution to farm subsidies to countries’ rights to fish in international waters.

The COVID vaccination has been granted a worldwide patent waiver

While this will remain the single most important topic at the forthcoming summit, India’s need for the waiver is gradually diminishing. India and South Africa suggested discussions on a temporary relaxation of intellectual property rights for vaccine makers in October 2020.

The proposal proposed that key provisions of the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) should be suspended so that vaccinations and testing technology for COVID-19 can be easily exchanged among countries.

Parts of this agreement will be suspended, allowing countries to overcome the legal barriers that patents provide to the timely provision of affordable medical products. Some WTO countries have had to make hasty changes to their national patent laws in order to speed up the process of obtaining compulsory/government use licences.

However, the idea has stalled because to strong resistance from a few European Union countries, including Switzerland, Norway, and the United Kingdom.

“Despite the support of practically all WTO member-nations, they have been emboldened by a non-committal United States.” “There is nothing that can be done, even if a single member is opposed, because all WTO decisions must be unanimous,” a senior trade negotiator stated.

Foodgrains are kept on hand indefinitely

The G33, an often-overlooked group of developing countries chaired by India and including 29 other nations, is planning a significant push to restart stalled farm regulations discussions. India and other developing countries have large-scale public stockholding programmes to buy, store, and distribute food grains.

Richer economies argue that some stockholding programmes, such as India’s minimum support price, hinder trade by requiring purchases from farmers at government-set prices (MSP).

The WTO currently includes a ‘peace provision’ that allows India’s food security programme to continue until a permanent solution is found. This allows India to purchase and stockpile foodgrains for distribution to the underprivileged without fear of being sanctioned by WTO members if it exceeds the world trade body’s 10% subsidy cap.

Subsidies to farmers

At the World Trade Organization, developed countries, led by the United States, Canada, Australia, and members of the European Union, oppose public stockholding of food crops and want developing countries, including India, to cap MSPs and limit input subsidies for fertiliser, seeds, pesticides, and irrigation.

Developed countries have steadfastly refused to reduce the enormous levels of targeted agricultural subsidies paid to their own farmers.

WTO rules on farm subsidies are now biassed towards developing nations like India, which have a high number of poor farmers to support, because MSP payments are included in the forbidden subsidies that can’t exceed 10% of the value of production (de-minimis level).

De minimis is defined by the World Trade Organization as the smallest level of domestic support that can be granted — up to 5% of the value of output for rich countries and 10% for developing countries.

For example, India offers roughly $260 per farmer per year in subsistence, compared to nearly 100 times more in other wealthy countries.

Fishing licences

World governments have entrusted the WTO with the vital responsibility of establishing rules on fishing subsidies. Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed in December 2017 to prohibit government subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing.

Members of the World Trade Organization have also agreed to prohibit subsidies that encourage illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. This rule, however, will include provisions that provide for special and unequal treatment for developing and least-developed countries, which rely significantly on fishing for food and money.

The conversations have been anything but quiet, given the significant impact on fishermen, marine exports, and the fact that fish is a source of food for poorer countries. There’s also little doubt that it’ll have a big impact on millions of Indian fishermen and the country’s marine export industry.

Fish population declines threaten to exacerbate poverty and put coastal communities that rely on fishing in jeopardy. According to the World Trade Organization, around 39 million people rely on seized fisheries for their livelihood. Fish provide 20% of animal protein demands, on average, for 3.3 billion people, therefore healthy oceans are also crucial for food security.

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What is the impending WTO conference and why is it important for India?
The WTO's yearly Ministerial Conference will take place later this month. The meeting will bring together trade ministers from all member countries to work out the kinks in the global trade ecosystem.
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