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At the World Trade Organization, countries are debating a "unprecedented" trade pact package

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - Early on Friday, the World Trade Organization's (WTO) chief presented countries with a number of tra...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - Early on Friday, the World Trade Organization's (WTO) chief presented countries with a number of trade agreements, including pledges on health, reform, and food security, and urged them to embrace them.

The agreements were hammered out over five days of negotiations at a gathering of more than 100 trade ministers, and are considered as a test of nations' capacity to reach multilateral trade agreements despite heightened geopolitical tensions. One agreement has already been achieved on the continuation of the e-commerce tariff moratorium.

In a letter to members signed by director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and two WTO chairs, she urged them to consider the "delicate balance" reached during nearly 24-hour talks that were extended for an extra two days and were tinged with rage and frustration at points.

The letter stated, "The essence of compromise is that no one gets all they desire." "Let us finish our task tonight so we may pay tribute to those who are waiting on the WTO to deliver."

A series of old and new demands from India, which regards itself as the protector of poor farmers and fishers as well as developing countries, threatened to stymie discussions at one point, but trade sources claimed that concessions were found.

On Thursday, India's Commerce Minister, Piyush Goyal, struck a positive and conciliatory tone. "India is confident that this would be one of the most successful ministerials that the WTO has seen in a long time," he remarked, a huge smile on his face.

Two of the most crucial deals under consideration, fisheries and a partial waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 pharmaceuticals, were not included in the package, which Okonjo-Iweala termed as "unprecedented." However, trade sources claimed that the talks were completed and that they will be included soon. In the early hours of the morning, clapping erupted from one of the negotiating rooms.

All of the agreements must still be accepted by the WTO's 164 members at a meeting on Friday that began around 0200 GMT, in accordance with the body's consensus norm.

To be sure, several of the accords have been toned down in recent conversations to meet all parties' concerns.

The deal on fishing subsidies, which has the potential to save fish stocks, has been drastically reduced; the vaccine waiver has been significantly reduced; and a plan to restructure the WTO's top appeals body has been criticised for lacking details.

Despite this, many observers are optimistic that the agreements will help the struggling 27-year-old organisation, which has not reached a worldwide trade agreement since the red-tape-cutting Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2013.

"A package is currently on the table at (the ministerial conference) that would provide the WTO system a significant boost in credibility and strength," said John Denton, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce.

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