India has agreed to the proposal of no export restrictions on the World Food Programme, says an Indian trade negotiator on condition of anonymity
WTO | Piyush Goyal
For the first time in a decade, the 164 World Trade Organization (WTO) members have finalised a historic trade deal at the 12th Ministerial Meeting (MC12), an Indian trade negotiator said on condition of anonymity. However, an official WTO statement was still awaited till the time of publishing.
The four-day MC12 was extended by a day as trade ministers negotiated through the night at the WTO headquarters overseeing Lake Geneva and negotiations continued on Thursday morning.
“India has agreed to the proposal of no export restrictions on the World Food Programme. But internal food security concerns will take precedence. There is no work programme on agriculture, which could be considered as a good outcome for India as our agri subsidy will not face any further scrutiny,” the official said.
On TRIPS waiver, an agreement could only be reached on vaccines. The official said negotiations for diagnostics and therapeutics will begin in the next six months as demanded by the developed countries. This means India’s demand to include diagnostics and therapeutics in the agreement didn’t find favour from developed countries.
In October 2020, India and South Africa and 63 co-sponsors of the waiver proposal had made the TRIPS waiver proposal to help middle and low income nations get access to Covid vaccines and drugs. However, the discussions reached a deadlock in the TRIPS Council — a body responsible for monitoring the operation of TRIPS agreement. The draft agreement fell short of the original proposal and includes only vaccines.
India had called for TRIPS waiver for vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, to fight Covid and future pandemics. India had held that it was too late in the day if only vaccines are included as the pandemic has run its initial course.
On moratorium on customs duty on e-commerce transactions, countries agreed to extend it by another two years. India was officially opposed to extending the moratorium citing loss of revenue to developing countries.
On fisheries subsidies also an agreement is likely with carve-outs for India and other developing countries. “But overfishing by China will face discipline,” the official said.
Another official said India was at the centre of WTO negotiations at the MC12. “India put forth aggressive draft texts in all pillars of WTO negotiations rather than being reactive, as in the past. India brought the members together to a unanimous agreement in fisheries, health, future of WTO reforms, digital technology, food and environment. The voice of the poor and the vulnerable got strengthened globally by India’s principled stand at the WTO,” he added.
An agreement at Geneva makes it the first trade deal since 2013 Bali Ministerial where members signed WTO’s first trade deal on a peace clause on public stockholding for food security purposes and trade facilitation agreement. The consensus driven rule making process at the multilateral trade organisation means even one member could thwart a deal at the last moment.
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