13th WTO Meeting Saw ‘Triumph of National Interest over Collective Responsibility’


Originally scheduled to run from Monday 26 February 2024 to Thursday 29 February 2024, the 13th WTO Ministerial Meeting extended till Saturday 2 March 2024 due to the ‘difficult negotiations.’ Nevertheless, few agreements were reached and observers deplored that ‘national interest prevailed over collective responsibility.’


The proposal was to curb subsidies for industrial fishing in an attempt to prevent overfishing. A first part was agreed in 2022 and will take effect when enough countries ratify it. However, several sections of the draft could not reach an agreement. Environmentalists expressed deep regret that the world’s ocean fishing resources could be depleted, thus putting millions of peoples whose livelihoods depend on the sea at risk.


Two solutions were considered in the draft agreement: one aimed to find a permanent solution to Public Stockholding (PSH) and the other proposes to extend privileges that only India currently enjoys.

Facing elections in May 2024 and farmer protests at home, India rejected the 2nd proposal in talks with key countries such as United States, Brazil and China.


The US hobbled the WTO top court causing many disputes to remain unresolved as countries can appeal cases into a legal void. Indian Trade minister Priyush Goyal said it was ‘sad’ that countries are obstructing outcomes without naming the USA and revealed that hee had raised the issue in a bilateral meeting with USTR Katherine Tai earlier this week.


Countries agreed to extend a moratorium on tariffs on digital goods unitl the next ministerial conference in two years’ time. Several countries, including India and South Africa, were initially opposed to the moratorium on tariff on businesses such as song and film streaming and downloads.


The next WTO Ministerial Conference is programmed to take place in Cameroon in 2026.