By JAMEY KEATEN Associated Press
GENEVA (AP) — Members of the World Trade Organization have reached a series of agreements and commitments aimed at limiting overfishing, expanding production of COVID-19 vaccines in the developing world and reforming a 27-year-old trade body. that has stepped on the heels again. in recent years.
WTO Director-General Nzogi Okonjo-Iweala, after a couple of sleepless nights in difficult negotiations, concluded the first WTO ministerial conference in four and a half years by heralding a new sense of cooperation at a time when the world it has faced crises such as growing food insecurity, the war in Ukraine, and a once-in-a-century pandemic that has claimed millions of lives.
“The settlement packages they have reached will make a difference to people’s lives around the world,” said Okonjo-Iweala, who has been in the post for 15 months. “The results show that the WTO is indeed capable of responding to the emergencies of our time.”
Among the major achievements in the 164-member trade body was an agreement, which fell short of all initial ambitions, to ban support for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and to ban support for fishing on overfished stocks. in the world’s oceans. The WTO chief said on Friday that the deal takes a “first but significant step” to curb government subsidies and overcapacity (too many operators) in the fishing industry.
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“WTO members have for the first time concluded an agreement with environmental sustainability at its core,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “It’s also about the livelihoods of the 260 million people who depend directly or indirectly on marine fisheries.”
More controversial was the agreement on a watered-down plan to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, which has run afoul of advocacy groups who say it didn’t go far enough and could even do more harm than good.
“The TRIPS waiver commitment will contribute to ongoing efforts to concentrate and diversify vaccine manufacturing capacity so that a crisis in one region does not leave others isolated,” Okonjo-Iweala said of waiving proprietary protections. intellectual.
The aid group Doctors Without Borders called it a “devastating global failure for the health of people around the world” that the deal fell short of early calls to include other tools to combat the coronavirus, including treatments and tests.
The meeting also agreed to lift export restrictions that have weighed on the UN World Food Program, which is trying to offset the impact of rising food prices and the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine on shipments of wheat, barley and other food products from a key producer to them.
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