The World Trade Organization (WTO) managed to reach a broad agreement at the XII Ministerial Summit (MC12) in Geneva, Switzerland.
The 164-member WTO reached a scaled-down agreement on fisheries subsidies and pandemic response text along with a decision to allow flexibility on intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines.
They also agreed on a compromise to exempt World Food Program purchases from export restrictions, an extension of the e-commerce moratorium, a food safety text and the launch of discussions on WTO reform.
Due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the WTO postponed MC12 several times from June 2020 to June 2022.
After the closing of negotiations, the director general of the WTO, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, highlighted the “unprecedented” broad agreement.
Before the Ministerial Summit, she summarized the possible results in what she characterized as the “four more pillars”: subsidies to fisheries, agriculture, services and the WTO’s response to the pandemic, in addition to issues related to reform and development. of the WTO.
More broadly, the new framework on trade and health would aim to lay the groundwork for a more resilient trading system that is better prepared for future crises.
“Let us remember that in the WTO what we do is negotiate, not impose; So, negotiations always take time and they also take creativity, development of proposals, analysis of proposals and conviction,” said Luz María de la Mora, Undersecretary of Foreign Trade of the Mexican Ministry of Economy, before the meeting.
An April 2020 report from the WTO estimated $597 billion in annual trade in critical medical products with limited availability during the Covid-19 pandemic.
For these products, the average applied most-favored-nation tariff is 4.8 percent.
For others, the tariffs are still quite high (for example, the average tariff on hand soap is 17%, and for some countries it is as high as 65%).
Tariffs on protective medical products reach 27 percent.