March 4, 2024


Ministers disagree on fisheries and agriculture deals at WTO conference


As the World Trade Organization's 13th ministerial conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi nears its conclusion, trade ministers remain divided on critical issues concerning fisheries subsidies and agriculture, AFP reported.


The formal closing session, initially set for 8 pm local time, was extended to midnight, reflecting the ongoing impasse among the WTO's 164 member states.


Among the contentious topics are fisheries subsidies, agricultural policies, and the continuation of a moratorium on customs duties for digital transactions.


Addressing reporters, India's trade minister Piyush Goyal expressed optimism about reaching significant outcomes, particularly on matters of deep concern to developing countries.


However, challenges persist, with negotiations resembling a "rollercoaster," according to sources familiar with the discussions.


One major hurdle is the negotiation of a new deal on fisheries subsidies, following the landmark agreement in 2022 targeting illegal fishing practices.


On food security, progress is anticipated in establishing permanent rules for public stockholding of food reserves, a priority for India.


Unresolved disputes, including reforming the dispute settlement mechanism, continue to challenge the conference's prospects for a comprehensive agreement.


Despite the complexities, there's cautious optimism that the conference will acknowledge progress made while acknowledging the need for further work to address substantive issues.


-      AFP

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