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The first WTO treaty with environmental protection

  • Published
    23rd Jun, 2022
Context

WTO’s Ministerial Conference 12’ in Geneva was held on June 17, 2022.

Background

background

  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that regulates and facilitates international trade.
  • The WTO is headquartered in GenevaSwitzerland.
  • Its top decision-making body is the Ministerial Conference, which is composed of all member states and usually convenes biennially; consensus is emphasized in all decisions.
  • Governments use the organization to establish, revise, and enforce the rules that govern international trade.
  • It officially commenced operations on 1 January 1995, pursuant to the 1994 Marrakesh Agreement, thus replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that had been established in 1948. 
  • The WTO is the world's largest international economic organization, with 164 member states representing over 98% of global trade and global GDP.
  • The rise of economic nationalism and unilateralism has increased trade friction making the WTO look increasingly irrelevant.

Outcomes of the meeting

  • Decisions were taken on areas such as agriculture, fishing, intellectual property, e-commerce, and food insecurity — was itself a milestone.
    • It agreed on limiting government subsidies for harmful fishing operations in an attempt to slow the depletion of rapidly declining fish stocks. 
    • This agreement will aid in curbing food insecurity and increase the sustainability of certain fish species.
    • Hence, it is the first WTO treaty with environmental protection and sustainability as its objective.
  • It agreed to relax intellectual property rules for COVID-19 vaccines.
  • It agreed to co-operate to resolve issues to do with food insecurity
  • With Russia’s war on Ukraine driving up food prices, some countries have restricted certain food exports or are subsidizing domestic farmers.

Challenges for WTO 

  • Pushing for tightening the rules on China’s state-owned enterprises and industrial subsidies.
  • Another issue is support measures adopted during the pandemic. Some governments understandably adopted policies to support domestic businesses in a time of crisis.
  • Violation of WTO rules by the member countries.

Other Environment based International Treaties

    • Stockholm Conference
    • Vienna Convention for Ozone Layer
    • Bali Summit on Climate Change

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