WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference yields fruitful results, expected to reinvigorate the confidence of all parties in multilateral trading system: MOFCOM
Published: Jun 22, 2022 01:49 AM
Photo taken on July 15, 2020 shows the exterior view of the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on July 15, 2020 shows the exterior view of the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Xinhua

The World Trade Organization's (WTO) 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) has achieved fruitful results amid global turmoil and serious challenges to the multilateral trading system, reaching a package of agreements on the WTO reform, epidemic response, food security, fisheries subsidies, e-commerce and other topics, China's Ministry of Commerce said on Tuesday.

The ministry noted that the results of the MC12 will reinvigorate the confidence of all parties in the multilateral trading system, reflecting the determination of WTO members to unite and work together to address global challenges and promote the recovery of the world economy.

The MC12 again reached a consensus outcome document for WTO members, seven years after the 10th Ministerial Conference in Kenya, in 2015.

According to the document, all parties reaffirmed the strengthening of the multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core, emphasized the important role of international trade and the WTO in promoting global economic recovery, enhancing people's well-being and achieving sustainable development. Moreover, they reaffirmed that special and differential treatment is an integral part of the WTO agreements.

The parties committed to have an adequate and well-functioning dispute settlement mechanism accessible to all members by 2024.

The conference also reached a decision on intellectual property rights (IPR) waiver for COVID-19 vaccines, which allows developing members to waive some of the obligations of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights regarding patent protection by authorizing the production of the vaccines without the permission of the patentee and exporting it to other eligible developing member countries.

According to the ministry, the MC12 also issued a Ministerial Declaration on the WTO Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Preparedness for Future Pandemics, covering comprehensive measures, including strengthening cooperation with international organizations, to respond to the outbreak of the pandemic and prepare for possible future flareups.

During the conference, the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies was issued which is the first WTO agreement aimed primarily at achieving environmental sustainability goals.

The WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations are part of the conversation at the WTO Doha Development Round, which have been underway for 21 years. The negotiations aim to help the sustainable development of marine fishery resources through the development of new subsidy rules to restrain harmful fishery subventions.

According to the agreement, subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as well as overfishing are prohibited.

The conference also focused on food security, releasing a Ministerial Declaration on the Emergency Response to Food Insecurity, in which all parties vow to facilitate trade in agricultural products, improve global markets for food and agricultural products and encourage food aid to poor and vulnerable countries.

Amid increased global food risks and significantly rising hunger levels, the humanitarian food assistance provided by the World Food Program (WFP) has become more urgent. During the conference, member ministers reached a Ministerial Decision on WFP Food Purchases Exemptions from Export Prohibitions or Restrictions, committing not to impose export bans or restrictions on WFP humanitarian food purchases.

In addition, ministers also adopted other three decisions, including the Decision on the E-commerce Moratorium and Work Program, two decisions on the Work Program on Small Economies and on the Agreement of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) non-violation and situation complaints.

A Sanitary and Phytosanitary Declaration for the Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference: Responding to Modern SPS Challenges has also been unveiled, in order to adapt to new developments in agriculture and to assist members in responding more effectively to global agricultural challenges.

"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," said the WTO Director-General, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Global Times