Agreeing to Agree, Sort of

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Major members of the World Trade Organization reached an initial deal in Geneva Thursday, winning over India which said it was confident more global accords could be achieved on fishing, vaccines and food security, Reuters reported.

Negotiators managed to create a provisional agreement to extend a moratorium on a digital tax until at least 2023.

Ministers from more than 100 countries met for the first time in more than four years to agree on new trade rules, a feat many thought unlikely in an era of high geopolitical tensions.

Among the contentious issues on the table was a draft text on fisheries that seeks to curb government subsidies to fishing vessels or workers who take part in “illegal, unregulated and unreported” fishing or national subsidies that contribute to “overcapacity or overfishing,” the Associated Press reported.

India has been a chief opponent of this agreement, saying that it does not give developing countries an equal playing field for addressing the desires of their traditional fishermen and protecting their livelihoods, according to the Economic Times.

Western diplomats have also accused India’s delegation of obstructing agreements on a waiver of WTO rules protecting patents behind Covid-19.

India has positioned itself as a voice for developing countries that have resisted calls by Western powers to protect the diversity of ocean wildlife and the innovations of their rich pharmaceutical industries.

Meanwhile, activist groups opposed the proposed changes, noting that they do not go far enough to battle the pandemic or prepare for the next one. Pharmaceutical corporations, however, remain staunchly opposed to any reforms that may weaken protection for their patents.

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