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12th WTO ministerial meeting starts in Geneva

Tags: Economy/Finance

The 12th ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation 2022 commenced at the headquarters of the World Trade Organisation at Geneva, Switzerland on 12 June 2022. It will be held from 12 -15 June 2022. The Indian delegation is being led by the Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goel.

  • The last 11th Ministerial meeting was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2017.
  • The Ministerial meeting is the top decision meeting body of the WTO and is normally held after every two years. 
  • They discuss the issues which is related to trade and investment and decision is taken by consensus by the 164 member WTO.

The main issue at the 12th Ministerial meeting which will be discussed by the member countries are as follows;

Subsidies on Fisheries 

  • The ministers will discuss steps to stop overfishing of the ocean which threaten the sustainability of the world's fish stocks.
  • It will discuss the amount of subsidy which a country can provide to their fisherman and fishing industries so as to discourage overfishing. 
  • The developing countries including India say that developed countries are responsible for depletion of marine resources and they will continue to provide subsidies to their fishermen.

Agriculture issues including Public Stockholding for food security

  • Developing countries can provide subsidies up to 10% of the total value produced of an agricultural commodity. If they exceed the subsidy limit they can be fined by WTO. 
  • India and other developing countries stockpile food grains for public distribution where food grains are purchased at a subsidized price and distributed to the poor at a subsidized price.
  • India wants a negotiation on how the subsides are to be calculated for this purpose.

Patent on Covid Vaccine 

  • After the covid pandemic there was a demand by developing countries to suspend patents on vaccines developed by the developed countries for a temporary period so that poor countries can get vaccines. 
  • The four major countries India, United States, European Union and South Africa have produced a draft policy which is to be considered by the member countries. 
  • However it would only apply to developing countries and those representing less than 10 percent of annual global COVID-19 vaccine exports thereby excluding China.

Moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmission.

  • The WTO members agreed in 1998 not to impose custom duty on electronic commerce. 
  • India and some other countries want to impose tax on electronic commerce as they claim that they are losing on tax revenue. 

WTO reform

  • Several members are calling for reform of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism.
  •  The WTO dispute settlement system has been paralyzed for two years after the American President Donald Trump blocked the appointment of new judges, demanding a complete overhaul. 
  • The member countries approach the dispute settlement mechanism if there is a violation of WTO trade rule by a member countries. 
  • There is a difference among the member countries on the extent of reform needed in the dispute settlement mechanism.
  • The United States wants complete change in the system calling it too cumbersome and bureaucratic while  others countries want smaller changes.

World Trade Organisation (WTO) 

  • It was set up on 1st January 1995 replacing the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT).
  • Its main purpose is to promote rule based trading systems in the world and it also settles trade related disputes between the member countries. 
  •  The headquarters of WTO is in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • There are 164 member countries.
  • Director General of WTO : Dr Ngozi -Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria
  • Report released by WTO : World Trade Report 

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