WTO agrees on fishing, food and COVID-19 vaccine deals


World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (C) delivers her speech during the closing session of a World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference at the WTO headquarters in Geneva on early June 17, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

The World Trade Organization concluded deals Friday on tackling food insecurity, curbing harmful fishing subsidies and temporarily waiving COVID-19 vaccine patents after days of round-the-clock talks.

WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the trade ministers’ conference had struck an “unprecedented package of deliverables” after the global trade body’s 164 members passed the deals at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva.

“Not in a long while has the WTO seen such a significant number of multilateral outcomes,” she said.

“The package of agreements you have reached will make a difference to the lives of people around the world. The outcomes demonstrate that the WTO is in fact capable of responding to the emergencies of our time.”

The talks began Sunday and were due to wrap up on Wednesday — but instead went straight through two nights and on into Friday.

The ministerial conference also agreed on deals on e-commerce, responding to pandemics and reforming the organization itself.

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.

Okonjo-Iweala, who took over in March 2021, hinged her leadership on breathing new life into the sclerotic organization.

The former foreign and finance minister of Nigeria positioned herself as someone who can bang heads together and get business done.

The last ministerial conference in Buenos Aires in December 2017 was seen as a flop after failing to strike any heavyweight deals.

“We have more work to do and now I can see that we are capable of doing it,” said Okonjo-Iweala.

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