Any emergency trade measures designed to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic should be temporary and proportionate and not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruptions in global supply chains, trade ministers of the G20 grouping said on Wednesday.
The grouping, however, skipped direct mention of talks over Intellectual Property Rights waiver for Covid-19 medicines at the World Trade Organisation, an issue that India has been aggressively pursuing.
According to a statement issued after the meeting of G20 trade ministers in Italy, Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), contributions to international efforts to expand production and delivery of vaccines and other related issues were dealt with at the TRIPS Council at WTO.
“The EU (European Union) was initially hesitant to include the TRIPS waiver in the statement, so the text was reworded and then endorsed,” an official said.
Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal, who attended the ministerial, had made a strong pitch for dismantling of IPR and trade barriers in the global fight against the pandemic.
The G20 trade ministers said they “underscore the importance of the ongoing negotiations in the WTO”.
“We highlight that the correct implementation and monitoring of commitments are essential to maintaining the integrity of an effective multilateral rules-based system and therefore support and encourage enhanced transparency and dialogue among WTO members in a balanced and inclusive manner,” it said.
The trade ministers said they remain committed to working actively and constructively with all WTO Members to undertake the necessary reform of the WTO and implement this commitment in practice through an “inclusive and transparent approach including tackling the development issues”.
The statement assumes significance ahead of a crucial ministerial conference of the WTO in December in which many countries are keen to finalise disciplines on non-trade issues such as the environment.
On plurilateral negotiations called Joint Statement Initiatives (JSI) on E-Commerce, Investment Facilitation for Development and Services Domestic Regulation, the grouping backed active participation of all WTO members in the initiatives for a meaningful progress at the upcoming 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12).
“Concerns have been expressed on rule-making by some G20 members that are not part of the JSIs,” it said.
Experts, however, raised concerns at the importance given to non-trade issues such as environmental sustainability and new issues like prohibiting industrial subsidies in the text while ignoring issues crucial for developing countries such as agriculture, food security, S&DT (special and differential treatment) and TRIPs waiver for Covid-19 vaccines, which found only a brief mention.
“This is a precursor to what is likely to happen at MC12 as issues relevant to developing countries are missing from the statement while non-trade issues and plurilateral initiatives have made it,” an expert on trade matters said.