By JAMEY KEATEN Associated Press
GENEVA (AP) — Talks came to an end Thursday as the World Trade Organization was poised to wrap up its first ministerial-level meeting in more than four years, without firm agreement so far on issues such as food security, fight against overfishing. in the seas, and efforts to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Western diplomats pointed fingers at the Indian delegation in particular, accusing it of blocking a deal on issues such as a waiver of WTO rules protecting patents behind COVID-19 vaccines and an attempt to cut subsidies. governments that help industrial-sized fishing operations that take in huge catches, while protecting the livelihoods of artisanal fishermen.
India stood its ground, positioning itself as a leading voice for developing countries that have resisted what they perceive as despotic demands from Western powers seeking to protect the diversity of ocean wildlife and the innovations of their lucrative pharmaceutical industries.
As the deadline for the talks approached, a Geneva-based trade official said Indian Trade Minister Piyush Goyal “has been very involved in trying to reach a compromise.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to provide details of the closed-door discussions.
Political cartoons about world leaders
Ambitions to strike deals at the WTO are, in many ways, victims of the very structure of the organization: the 164-member trade body operates by consensus, meaning each country has to approve decisions or at least not stand in the way. the way. The United States, in particular, has single-handedly blocked appointments to the WTO appeals court, whose goal is to mediate trade disputes.
The four-day meeting that opened on Sunday was extended by a day to give negotiators one last chance to strike at least one major deal. It would be the first in years.
India has been a crucial participant in the “Intellectual Property Exemption” talks over COVID-19 vaccine protections, along with South Africa, which has come into conflict with many rich countries. WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has started talks with the US and the European Union to work on a compromise text.
Many activist groups oppose the proposed changes, saying they don’t go far enough to help fight a once-in-a-century pandemic or prepare for the next. Big Pharma has resisted any changes that might dilute protections for its innovations.
The envoys also accepted statements showing their support for the World Food Program in times of growing food insecurity, as Russia’s war in Ukraine has cut off exports of wheat and other staples from their fields.
The fisheries draft text aims to limit government subsidies, such as fuel, to fishing boats or workers engaged in “illegal, unreported and unreported” fishing or national subsidies that contribute to “overcapacity or overfishing”. Some in developing countries may qualify for exemptions. Talks on the subject have been going on at the WTO for the last two decades.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.