WTO talks extended in bid to seal elusive deals

WTO talks extended in bid to seal elusive deals

WTO talks extended in bid to seal elusive deals

WTO talks extended in bid (Credits: Google)

  • Ministerial meeting of World Trade Organization to extend into the fifth day.
  • Efforts aimed at reaching agreements on fisheries subsidies, food security, and fighting Covid-19.
  • WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said it seemed sticking points could be resolved.

WTO ministerial meeting will extend into a fifth day on Thursday in the expectation of reaching hitherto elusive agreements on fisheries subsidies, food security, and fighting Covid-19.

The meeting of trade ministers at the World Trade Organization’s headquarters in Geneva was set to end on Wednesday, with the global trade group trying to reach landmark agreements to demonstrate that it still has a role to play in addressing major global concerns.

But WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who has staked her leadership on breathing new life into the sclerotic organisation, said it seemed the remaining sticking points could be resolved if ministers ploughed on.

Read More: In the midst of a ‘polycrisis,’ the WTO director warns of a bumpy road

“Progress is being made but it needs a little more work and more time,” the director-general said.

The gathering is the first WTO ministerial conference in nearly five years. The global trade body only takes decisions by consensus among its 164 members.


“It requires that we work harder and work nights, whatever it takes,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

“It is really time for ministers to make the requisite decisions that need to be made.”

She said countries “feel that we really can cross the line on some of these things if we gave it a bit more time”.

The former finance and foreign minister of Nigeria, who took office in March 2021, is keen to make the WTO a relevant player on the international stage.

The last WTO ministerial conference, in December 2017 in Buenos Aires, was widely considered a flop, closing without a major agreement.

– Fishing reform sunk? –


Okonjo-Iweala was hoping to pull off a coup by securing a long-sought deal on curbing harmful fishing subsidies.

Negotiations toward banning subsidies that encourage overfishing and threaten the sustainability of the planet’s fish stocks have been going on at the WTO for more than two decades.

The mood music on Monday was that a deal was now closer than ever.

But India threw a spanner in the works late Tuesday, insisting it would not sign up without a 25-year exemption — far longer than many are comfortable with.

“The transition period of 25 years sought by India is not intended as a permanent carve-out. It is a must-have for us and for other similarly placed non-distant water fishing countries,” Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said in a statement.

“Without agreeing to the 25-year transition period, it will be impossible for us to finalise the negotiations.


“This is completely unacceptable! And that is the reason India is opposed to the current text.”

Aside from fisheries, the WTO conference is attempting to reach agreements on e-commerce, agriculture, food security, Covid-19 vaccine patents, the WTO’s response to pandemics, and organisational reform.

Read More: WTO chief says ‘cautiously optimistic’ ahead of high-stakes meet

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