Page Nav


Gradient Skin



Responsive Ad

As trade tensions rise due to the war, the WTO is looking for deals on seafood and vaccines

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - This month, the World Trade Organization will host ministers from around the world in the hopes of reachi...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - This month, the World Trade Organization will host ministers from around the world in the hopes of reaching agreements on fish and vaccines, putting the world's ability to create trade laws to the test at a time when tensions are rising.

The Geneva-based organization had already been undermined by global trade strife, COVID-19, and the weakening of its dispute settlement process, which was forced to cancel the ministerial meeting twice owing to the epidemic.

After Russia's invasion of Ukraine sparked commodity price hikes and food export bans, and China's zero-COVID policy exacerbated global supply chain challenges, the normally biennial summit, which was last conducted over four years ago, will now take place.

Meanwhile, global trade is expected to stall this year, with the Ukraine conflict adding to the uncertainties.

In this context, the ministers will strive to end 20 years of negotiations to cut fisheries subsidies, reach an agreement on a more equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations, advance agricultural trade reform, and chart a course for WTO reform.

The summit, nicknamed MC12, felt "a little bit cursed," according to Dmitry Grozoubinski, director of the Geneva Trade Platform.

"This was always going to be a ministerial meeting with minimal results. Things have become more difficult as a result of the invasion, but they were never easy to begin with "he stated

Several members have stated that they will not talk with Russia, and Moscow is anticipated to stymie any attempt by Ukraine's allies to draft a ministerial statement on the crisis, including its impact on food security.

"The possibility of total interruption from the Ukraine war looms large in the background," said Peter Van den Bossche, director of studies at the World Trade Institute. "I am confident that Russia will demonstrate that development cannot be done without it."


Ministers will hopefully sign a proclamation at the summit on trade's role in current and future pandemics, but even as the coronavirus crisis has subsided, a disagreement over how to address vaccination inequities has dominated negotiations.

Developing countries have been requesting a waiver of IP rights for vaccines and other COVID-19 therapies since 2020.

It's unclear whether an agreement reached by India, South Africa, the EU, and the US on vaccines will become a full deal.

At the same time, members are negotiating a pact to stop fishing fleet subsidies, which might be a game-changer in reversing a significant reduction in fish populations.

The transition phase for developing countries is one outstanding topic. Many people believe it should be five to seven years, but some believe it should be as long as 25 years.

The outlook, based on previous history, is not promising. In its 27-year history, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has only managed to alter its worldwide regulations once: the red-tape-cutting Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Some commentators argue that the WTO, like the fish, requires a deal to maintain fish stocks in order to demonstrate its relevance.

Consensus is a perennial struggle for the WTO. A decision can be blocked by just one of its 164 members.

On the chances of a successful 'MC12,' opinions differ.

Roberto Azevedo, the Brazilian president of the World Trade Organization from 2013 to 2020, claimed today's accord was "impossible."

"Even when you have situations where you may perceive the consensus, or where members may converge," he continued, "it's impossible to get a consensus."

In contrast, John W. H. Denton, secretary general of the International Chamber of Commerce, expressed confidence in the WTO's ability to reach a fishing deal.


President Joe Biden's administration will come in Geneva with a more conciliatory tone than his predecessor's. However, the WTO's appeals panel, which Donald Trump destroyed, is not about to be relaunched, and the Geneva-based body is in need of improvements, according to Trump.

Washington claims that the WTO has failed to hold China accountable for unfair trade practices, and it hopes that the June WTO summit will kick off a conversation about global trade rule reform.

It also claims that China has outgrown its reputation as a developing country, having risen from sixth place when it joined the WTO in 2001 to become the world's second largest economy. At the WTO, developing nations have benefits such as extra time to implement accords.

Pascal Lamy, the World Trade Organization's (WTO) president from 2005 to 2013, stated the WTO's rules were falling behind in tackling current trade barriers.

"Today's WTO regulations reflect a world where trade barriers were the same as they were 30-40 years ago - tariffs, subsidies, quantitative restrictions, and so on. These traditional trade barriers are becoming increasingly irrelevant "he stated

Despite this, worldwide trade in 2021 reached a new high of $28.5 trillion, up 13% from pre-pandemic levels, with much of it based on existing WTO standards.

"In that sense, the WTO is still useful, but it has to be more relevant with new rules," said Van den Bossche of the World Trade Institute.

Reponsive Ads