WTO, India defiant in overtime push for trade deal

World The trade body on Wednesday extended its talks by a day amid growing doubts that any change in global trade rules could lead to a consensus. India Adamant it will not yield on food, fisheries and vaccines.

During the WTO ministerial conference this week, its first major meeting in four years, the 164-member body is seeking to agree on a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a reduction in fishing subsidies, a pledge on food security and a launch . internal improvement.

The WTO said the talks had made significant progress and were not far from agreements on a range of subjects. A spokesman described it as “expecting” successful results by Thursday.

Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar was less enthusiastic.

“We think we are heading towards a non-consequential ministerial,” he told Reuters during the meeting on Wednesday, when the meeting was about to end.

The WTO takes decisions unanimously, so just one objection can thwart a deal.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela told more than 100 ministers present that time was running out and they should “go the extra mile”.

The delegates said India, which has a history of blocking multilateral trade deals, was unwilling to compromise. That view was supported by Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal’s remarks made in closed sessions and which New Delhi chose to publish.

India and South Africa and other developing countries have demanded exemptions of intellectual property rights for vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for more than a year, but faced opposition from several developed countries along with major drug producers.

A tentative deal between the major parties – India, South Africa, the United States and the European Union – emerged in May, but campaign groups criticized that it fell short of what was needed.

Activists staged a “die-in” protest at a World Trade Organization building on Wednesday, pretending to be dead on the floor, to highlight deaths caused by the absence of intellectual property exemptions.

Goyal also expressed the same opinion.

“My own understanding is that what we are getting is completely half-baked and that will not allow us to make any vaccines,” he said.

The World Trade Organization has also pushed for a global deal to cut fishing subsidies, which would be only the second multilateral agreement since its creation 27 years ago and demonstrate its relevance in an era of rising trade tensions.

Goyal said in remarks to delegates that India was a strong supporter of sustainability, but its fishing industry did not operate large fleets and relied on small-scale and often poor fishermen.

The minister said that India and similar countries should be given a transition period of 25 years to end fishing subsidies, which is much longer than what other WTO members have suggested.

“While it is not yet clear whether a deal has to be struck…. with Indians throwing even more objections to the texts,” said a diplomat close to the talks.

However, civil society groups said that it was prosperous nations, inflexible to the needs of developing countries, that were responsible for the impasse.

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