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News & Events

Tánaiste welcomes progress made at trade talks

Agreement reached on fisheries, vaccines, e-commerce and food security by 164 countries at World Trade Organisation conference

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD, today welcomed an agreement made by all 164 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the early hours of this morning.

Trade Ministers from around the world have been engaged in negotiations in Geneva since Sunday, 12 June and have reached important conclusions on vaccine availability and distribution (the so-called ‘TRIPs’ waiver), food security, fisheries, e-commerce, and WTO reform.

 The Tánaiste said:

This is a positive outcome, for what is a very difficult task – getting 164 countries to come to agreement on a very broad-ranging set of issues. We now finally have agreement on the TRIPs waiver, which will result in more vaccines being produced and distributed to those that need them most, while protecting research and innovation, which is really important because we need to make sure we are investing in better treatments for existing and new diseases. 

“The fisheries subsidy agreement is a landmark one which will improve the sustainability of our fish stocks and our oceans by prohibiting the use of harmful subsidies which support illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing including in unregulated high seas. This agreement is a clear demonstration of the powerful role the multilateral rules-based trading system can play in facing global sustainability and environmental challenges.

“The package will provide some guarantees to countries which struggle with food security, particularly those in the global south and the protection of the World Food Programme.

“A decision was also made to continue to suspend customs duties on digital transmissions, such as online streaming, downloads, digital communications. This will provide industry and customers with certainty and is really welcome. Congratulations to Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and her team on reaching this agreement.”

Ministers also reached agreement on a comprehensive work programme for reform of the WTO.

The Tánaiste said:

“At a time when of increased uncertainty, with Putin’s war on Ukraine, the existential threat of climate change, and all the many challenges our citizens face, the WTO has the potential to be an organisation that can make real, meaningful changes on a global scale. I’m optimistic about the programme of reform that has been agreed and look forward to seeing it in action.”

Earlier this week (Sunday, 12 June), the Tánaiste addressed the Conference, focusing on the need for members to make progress on these critical issues and highlighting the importance of free, multilateral trade.

Note for Editors

The World Trade Organisation was established in 1995 as the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The latter was founded in 1947 as one of the multilateral institutions to deliver peace and economic development after World War II.

The WTO currently has 164 members, with Ireland joining the GATT in 1967 as part of its strategy to open up the economy to imports and foreign investment, to make the economy more competitive and to develop a strong export sector.

The WTO meets at Ministerial Conference (MC) level every two years. The 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) took place in Geneva on 12 – 17 June.

The European Commission, which represents EU Member States at the WTO, has stated that the EU is committed to a successful MC12 and to showing that the WTO can respond to global challenges.