Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on June 17 said that India has achieved spectacular success at World Trade Organization (WTO)'s 12th ministerial conference (MC12) in in Geneva, Switzerland. Goyal had led India's delegation to the four-day global summit which was extended for two additional days after differences among member nations on key issues, led to intense negotiations.
"India is 100% satisfied with the outcome of WTO's MC12 conference. India was successful in ensuring the livelihood of its farmers and fishermen," Goyal said. He further added that India was successful in convincing all nations to ensure a patent waiver for the manufacturing of Covid vaccines.
Goyal was speaking to the press after the once-in-two-year mega meeting of trade ministers from all 162 WTO member nations concluded in the early hours of Friday.
MC12 finally ended with deals on a global intellectual property rights (IPR) waiver for Covid vaccines and fishing subsidies to protect ocean resources. Moneycontrol had reported on Thursday that both deals were expected to finally pass despite intense debate.
While India had pushed for more comprehensive measures in these areas, as well as for talks on agriculture, the final outcome has been backed by New Delhi as promising.
Everyone had written off this conference as a failed endeavour when it had begun. There had no decision, not even an outcome document at WTO since 2015. There were a lot of arguments against multilateralism and that globalization has no promise. This conference has reestablished the position of multilateral institutions by deciding on issues which were pending for decades," Goyal stressed.
"The agreement on fisheries is currently limited to illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing. The discussion on extending this to all government subsidies will take place going forward. Currently, there are no restrictions on government subsidies," Goyal said.
Instead, the WTO has cognizance of India's demand that nations that have consistently supported illegal deepsea fishing be regulated, he added.
Goyal also said that there is no negative outcome for India's agriculture sector. India's public stockholding program for foodgrains will also continue unhindered, he added. On the issue of food security, Goyal said talks have progressed to a certain degree.
A proposed global declaration to not curb foodgrain exports to the World Food Programme (WFP), which seeks to fight hunger in places hit by conflicts, disasters, and climate change, passed in a modified form after being blocked by India.
"The WTO has also decided to craft a significant response to the pandemic," Goyal said referring to the patent waiver for Covid vaccines. MC12 has also finally approved a temporary suspension of certain parts of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
Suspending parts of the TRIPS agreement would allow countries to overcome the legal challenges posed by patents to ensure the timely provisioning of affordable medical products. However, the deal will only to cover vaccines and not related items.
While India had consistently pushed for keeping all therapeutics and diagnostic technologies part of the deal, the final deal will help developing and poor nations to access much needed vaccines Goyal said. "The WTO has approved the solution that came out of consistent discussions between India, South Africa, United States and European Union on the issue," he said.
The WTO has also decided to extend yet again the moratorium on taxation on e-commerce transactions.
The WTO members had agreed to not impose customs duties on electronic transmissions since 1998 and the moratorium has been periodically extended at successive ministerial conferences. However, India has increasingly become a strict opponent of the move and initially blocked the continuation of the moratorium at MC12.
New Delhi had stressed that it is willing to tax electronic transactions in the near future, using Section 9(1)(i) of the Income Tax Act. It also wants to retain the policy space to grant preferential treatment of digital products created within India.
"The moratorium was extended but with a deadline. It was decided that there has to be clarity on this issue by March 2024," Goyal argued. The next ministerial conference (MC13) is set to be held then.
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