WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (‘MC’) concluded on 17 June 2022 with some great results. Among the 9 Ministerial declarations/decisions, the prominent ones include Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies and Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement. Some of the major decisions are highlighted below.
- TRIPS waiver for Covid-19 vaccines - An eligible Member (Developing country) may authorize the use of the subject matter of a patent (includes ingredients and processes necessary for the manufacture of the Covid-19 vaccine) without the right holder’s consent, whether or not a Member has a compulsory license regime in place. Further, Members may allow any proportion of the products manufactured under the authorization in accordance with this decision to be exported to eligible Members. This decision will apply till 5 years. The General Council may however extend such period. It may be noted that the Members will also decide within 6 months on extension of this decision to cover the production and supply of Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.
- Agreement on fisheries subsidies – The Agreement applies to subsidies, within the meaning of Article 1.1 of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM Agreement) that are specific within the meaning of Article 2 of that Agreement, to marine wild capture fishing and fishing related activities at sea. According to the Agreement, no Member shall grant or maintain any subsidy to a vessel or operator engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing or fishing related activities in support of IUU fishing. IUU fishing refers to activities set out in paragraph 3 of the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing adopted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2001. Further, no Member shall grant or maintain subsidies for fishing or fishing related activities regarding an overfished stock, and shall not grant or maintain subsidies provided to fishing or fishing related activities outside of the jurisdiction of a coastal Member or a coastal non-Member and outside the competence of a relevant Regional Fisheries Management Organization or Arrangement (RFMO/A).
- Customs duties on electronic transmissions - Current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions has been extended till MC13, which should ordinarily be held by 31 December 2023. The decision however notes that should MC13 be delayed beyond 31 March 2024, the moratorium will expire on that date unless Ministers or the General Council take a decision to extend.
- Other decisions – Other than the above, there were ministerial declaration on the emergency response to food insecurity, ministerial decision on world food programme food purchases exemption from export prohibitions or restrictions, ministerial declaration on the WTO response to the Covid-19 pandemic and preparedness for future pandemics, work programme on small economies, sanitary and phytosanitary declaration for the twelfth WTO ministerial conference, and the TRIPS non-violation and situation complaints.