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No WTO agreement on counteracting food price fluctuations

Although the World Trade Organization WTO summit has published a final statement, few concrete results have been achieved.

The final statement obliges all countries to “take steps to make agricultural production and trade more predictable and therefore less price fluctuating”. But how that is to be achieved will only be decided later within the WTO at follow-up meetings.

The WTO annual meeting initially threatened to fail completely, and had to be extended by two days. At one point, a series of demands from India, which sees itself as championing poor farmers and fishermen and developing countries, seemed to paralyze the talks altogether, but a compromise was nevertheless found, trade sources said.

In the WTO, all decisions are taken by unanimity, so that in fact every country has veto power. Due to the corona pandemic, it was the first time in three years that more than a hundred trade ministers were physically together again. Under former President Trump in the United States, the WTO could not get much done because the US went completely its own way, and did not want to make international agreements. 

A tangible result in agriculture is now that, after three years of negotiations, WTO countries have agreed to lift restrictions on the procurement of humanitarian food aid by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).

It has also been decided to abolish harmful fishing subsidies, after twenty years of negotiations. The deal to curb fisheries subsidies is only the second multilateral agreement in the WTO's 27-year history and is much more ambitious than the first, which was designed to reduce bureaucracy.

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