Source: European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis/Twitter
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  • The WTO approves a series of major trade agreements after a meeting among representatives from its 164 members stretched into its second day of overtime
  • Delegates pass a package of six agreements that include commitments on fish and pledges on health and food security
  • Two of the most contentious issues discussed in the meetings include an accord to curb fishing subsidies and a partial waiver of IP rights for COVID-19 vaccines
  • While the latter issue faces criticism from campaign groups, European Trade Commissioner Valdis says today’s deals deliver “important” global outcomes
  • Part of the package of deals includes a commitment from the WTO to undergo an organisational reform to ensure it can meet 21st-century challenges

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Friday approved a series of major trade agreements after a meeting among representatives from its 164 members stretched into its second day of overtime.

After five days of bargaining among more than 100 trade ministers, delegates passed a package of six agreements that included commitments on fish and pledges on health and food security.

Two of the most contentious issues discussed in the meetings included an accord to curb fishing subsidies and a partial waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights for COVID-19 vaccines.

The new fishing subsidy rules are designed to address some of the key drivers of global over-fishing and replenish fishing stocks in many parts of the world.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 vaccine IP waiver is designed to allow developing countries to produce and export vaccines themselves rather than having to purchase them from other producers.

However, this latter issue, which has divided the WTO for almost two years, has drawn criticism from campaign groups that claim it is too narrow to be highly effective.

“Put simply, it is a technocratic fudge aimed at saving reputations, not lives,” Co-Chair of the People’s Vaccine Alline Max Lawson said, according to a Reuters report.

Nevertheless, European Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said today’s deal would deliver “important” outcomes in light of geopolitical tensions and global crises.

Mr Dombrovskis said other deals in the major package included a maintained moratorium on import duties for e-commerce, which he claimed was “vital” for small businesses and a global digital transformation.

The WTO also agreed to an organisational reform to ensure it can meet 21st-century challenges.

The Trade Commissioner said the WTO would aim to get a reform deal locked in before its next ministerial conference.

These conferences typically occur every two years.

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