June 22, 2022 – The World Trade Organization (WTO) concluded its 12th Ministerial Conference last week striking agreements on e-commerce, vaccines, and fisheries.
It is the WTO’s biggest package of multilateral trade deals since the Uruguay Round of Talks that launched the WTO 27 years ago.
The WTO agreed to extend a tariff moratorium on e-commerce transactions, which supporters say will continue to allow the free flow of data worldwide. The ban on e-commerce tariffs will stay in place until the next WTO ministerial meeting or until March 31, 2024, whichever comes first, unless WTO members decide to extend it before then.
The agreement on Covid-19 vaccines authorizes the development of generic vaccines. It waives intellectual property protections without the patent holder’s permission in order to spur domestic production of the medicines.
The WTO also reached a partial agreement to curb harmful fishing subsidies. A fuller agreement on fishing subsidies has been under negotiation for more than 20 years but was not passed. The new rules prohibit subsidies for illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, while action on subsidies for fuel, ship construction, and other areas was left unresolved.
WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala called the agreements unprecedented. The conference was extended an extra two days for the 164-member body to work out their differences.