KUALA LUMPUR: The 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland has resulted in groundbreaking accomplishments in several key areas of the negotiations.
Senior Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said members exercised their utmost flexibilities in the difficult areas, resulting in a historic deal on several key deliverables, particularly the Ministerial Declarations and Decisions on the WTO Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Preparedness for Future Pandemics, as well as the Emergency Response to Food Insecurity.
Other key deliverables include the World Food Programme (WFP) Food Purchases Exemptions from Export Prohibitions or Restrictions; Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies; the extension of e-commerce moratorium for the cross-border transaction, as well as a waiver of certain provisions in the Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement to address vaccine inequality.
According to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), this was a major milestone for a Ministerial WTO Conference since the 9th Bali Ministerial Conference back in 2013.
In a statement today, Mohamed Azmin said after more than 20 years of negotiating the disciplines to curb harmful fisheries subsidies, the world saw the first much-anticipated Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies which will soon come to life with ocean sustainability at its heart.
“Malaysia welcomes the conclusion of this agreement which prohibits support for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, bans support for unsustainable fishing in overfished stocks, as well as curb subsidies in overcapacity and overfishing areas by ending subsidies for fishing in the unregulated high seas.
“It is our hope that with this agreement, we would be able to manage the depleted marine resources, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030, which, in the long-term, could benefit our fishing industry,” he said.
On the Ministerial Declaration on the WTO Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Preparedness for Future Pandemics, Mohamed Azmin said members have committed to ensuring that any measures designed to tackle COVID-19 must be targeted, transparent and temporary.
“On June 13, I reaffirmed Malaysia’s strong support for efforts and commitment to the Ministerial
Declaration, including the adoption of an outcome on TRIPs which shows that members can now act collectively to address vaccine inequality,” he said.
The minister said in response to the global food security crisis, Malaysia welcomes members’ commitment to making trade in food and agriculture inputs more predictable and the prices less volatile.
This can be achieved through the adoption of the Ministerial Decision on World Food Programme (WFP) Food Purchases Exemption from Export Prohibitions or Restrictions, and the Ministerial Declaration on the Emergency Response to Food Insecurity.
“I had also urged WTO members to make concrete progress towards achieving a fair and market-oriented agriculture trading system,” he added.
Malaysia also supports the Ministerial Decision to maintain the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions until MC13.
In view of this, he said, members have agreed to revive the work under the ‘Work Programme on e-Commerce’ to promote digitalisation and adoption of digital solutions, in light of the challenges posed by the pandemic.
“I commend the MC12 chairperson, Timur Suleimenov, First Deputy Chief of Staff of the President of Kazakhstan, and WTO director-general, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for their astute leadership and dedication in bringing members to the negotiating table towards arriving at a consensus in difficult areas of negotiations,” he said.
Mohamed Azmin said the relentless efforts and hard work by the Minister Facilitators and Chairs of negotiating groups were also instrumental in achieving a balanced outcome that is acceptable to all 164 WTO members.
The next Ministerial Conference is expected to be held in December 2023. – Bernama