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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Commerce Syed Naveed Qamar has highlighted Pakistan’s key challenges like balance of payment and looming food security threats at the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) held in Geneva from June 12 to 16, 2022.

The delegation also comprised officials from the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the WTO and the Ministry of Commerce.

During the opening ceremony on 12th June, the minister addressed the conference on the challenges confronting the Multilateral Trading System. Lacking implementation of mandates from Ministerial Conferences, a dysfunctional dispute settlement body, a tendency to ignore the rules-based system and unilateral actions of members were highlighted as some of the major challenges confronting the system.

According to an official statement, the minister highlighted some of the challenges being faced by Pakistan in the wake of balance of payments crisis, and looming food security threats. He underscored Pakistan’s commitment to the system and called for a focus on issues that would help build back from the pandemic and prepare for the future, such as finding solutions to challenges posed by the intellectual property system, lack of technology transfer to developing countries, and the access to policy tools to augment production.

The Minister further emphasised the need for upholding the fundamental principles enshrined in the Marrakesh Agreement such as consensus-based decision making and special and differential treatment to achieve the objectives of economic growth and sustainable development, raising standards of living and generating employment.

During the conference, the Pakistan delegation participated actively in all major areas of negotiation to achieve its main interests. On the issue of the WTO response to pandemic, Pakistan played a central role in leading a coalition of several members and successfully negotiated Ministerial Declaration on response to Covid-19 and preparedness for future pandemics.

Naveed Qamar clearly recalled members’ commitments under the WTO, the challenges faced during the pandemic, lessons learnt, and a commitment to prepare for future emergencies by focusing on issues of food security, technology transfer, intellectual property, trade in services, and regulatory and international cooperation. As a cosponsor of the demand for a waiver on intellectual property rights to secure safe, equitable, and affordable vaccines, Pakistan successful negotiated an outcome under the Covid-19 TRIPS decision that would help local manufacturers develop vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

The minister for Commerce actively led the delegation in the negotiations on an Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. The agreement calls for the implementation of the UN SDG 14.6 to secure sustainable development by prohibiting harmful subsidies for fishing. At the same time, it allows developing countries the essential special and differential treatment to assist fishing activities in particular for resource poor, artisanal and coastal fisheries.

In a session on the proposed reform of the WTO, the Commerce minister highlighted the existing imbalances in trade agreements that favoured developed countries, and called for restoring confidence in the organisation by restoring a developmental agenda and safeguarding the foundational principles of the organisation.

He further reminded the Members of Pakistan’s commitment to active participation particularly in developmental work that could contribute to the attainment of long-term objectives of developing countries.

The outcomes of the Ministerial Declaration also included Ministerial declarations on Food Security, collaboration with the World Food Programme and a specific time-bound extension of the moratorium on Customs duties on electronic transmissions, recognition of the global environmental challenges, commitment to work in the area of services trade, and the importance of strengthened collaboration and cooperation among international organisation.

Apart from the engagements at the conference, the minister also engaged in bilateral meetings with various other developing countries and stressed the need for enhanced bilateral cooperation in all areas, and collective participation in multilateral negotiations through effective coalition building.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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