The World Trade Organization has extended its ministerial meeting in Geneva for another day until Thursday to try to build consensus on the key issues of fisheries subsidies, food security and measures to fight the pandemic. of Covid.

The four-day ministerial meeting was due to conclude on Wednesday, but Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala late Tuesday night decided to extend the talks for a day to reach an agreement.

The WTO makes its decisions by consensus among its members. “Progress is being made but it takes a bit more work and more time,” the chief executive said. This is the first WTO ministerial meeting in five years.

On the issue of fisheries subsidies, India is sticking to its initial demand for a 25-year transition, which many countries are not ready to accept, and has rejected the draft agreement.

“The 25-year transition period requested by India is not intended as a permanent exclusion. It is a must for us and for other non-remote water fishing nations in the same situation,” said Trade and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal in a statement. statement.

India argued that its fishing subsidy of $15 per family per year was not even comparable to what some developed countries distribute, for example, $42,000 by the Netherlands, $65,000 by Sweden and $75,000 from Denmark.

Concessions below expectations

Furthermore, the proposed pact on fisheries only extended concessions up to 24 nautical miles from the shore, compared to 12 miles as incorporated in the original draft text. The concession falls well short of what India had asked for – unlimited fishing in the exclusive economic zone, that is, up to 200 nautical miles from the coast.

India has also locked horns with some developed countries – Switzerland and the UK in particular – on waiving aspects of trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) and the WTO’s response to future pandemics.

Goyal officially accused the developed world of nitpicking. “My personal feeling is that no (vaccine manufacturing) factory will ever reach the deal that we are finally trying to negotiate,” he said.

In his formal interaction, however, Minister Goyal did not name Switzerland or the UK – the two countries that were advocating for their private pharmaceutical companies.

On public stockholding for food security, India asked the WTO why it prevented its members from making government-to-government purchases for humanitarian purposes. Here too, a group of nations with a strong agricultural base, for example Argentina, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand, have not lost ground.