The 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization: Basics Explained

The 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization on June 17, agreed to a series of deals relating to the temporary waivers on Covid-19 vaccines, a moratorium on e-commerce trade, food security, and setting limits on harmful fishing subsidies.

The WTO passed a multilateral agreement that would curb ‘harmful’ subsidies on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing for the next four years, to better protect global fish stocks.

Members agreed to a binding decision to exempt food purchased by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) for humanitarian purposes, from any export restrictions. However, countries would be allowed to restrict food supplies to ensure domestic food security needs.

All members agreed to continue the long-standing moratorium on customs duties on e-commerce transmissions until the subsequent Ministerial Conference or until March 31, 2024, depending on whichever comes first.

WTO members agreed to temporarily waive intellectual property patents on Covid-19 vaccines without the consent of the patent holder for 5 years so that they can more easily manufacture them domestically.


The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. World Trade Organization, as an institution was established in 1995. It replaced General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) which was in place since 1946.

The goal is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably, and freely as possible. It operates a global system of trade rules, it acts as a forum for negotiating trade agreements, it settles trade disputes between its members and it supports the needs of developing countries. Location : Geneva, Switzerland. The WTO has over 164 members 

At the 2001 ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar, WTO members agreed to a new round of negotiations that promised to put developing countries at the center. This became known as the Doha Development Agenda, or the Doha Round.

Liberalizing global agricultural trade was the linchpin of the agenda. Many of the world’s poorest nations depend on exporting basic agricultural products but struggle to compete against richer nations that support their farmers with subsidies.

The Doha agenda also sought to further reduce barriers to trade in services, such as business and finance, and nonagricultural goods.

2013 ministerial in Bali, Indonesia, delivered a significant achievement: the first multilateral agreement since the creation of the WTO. This was the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which aims to speed up customs procedures and make trade easier, faster, and cheaper. The talks also reached an interim agreement on “public stockholding,” continuing exceptions that allow developing countries to stockpile agricultural products to protect against food shortages.

Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former Nigerian finance minister and World Bank veteran, on February 15,2021 was appointed as the first female and first African head of the beleaguered World Trade Organization.


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