Published: 15:40, June 16, 2022 | Updated: 15:59, June 16, 2022
Gridlocked WTO negotiations stretch into final day
By Reuters

Ambassadors discuss before the opening ceremony of the 12th Ministerial Conference at the headquarters of the World Trade Organization, in Geneva, on June 12, 2022. (MARTIAL TREZZINI / POOL / AFP)

GENEVA - All-night negotiations at the World Trade Organization aimed at clinching deals on food security, fishing and vaccines paused around dawn on Thursday with no immediate sign that efforts to overcome Indian opposition had succeeded.

Ministers from more than 100 countries are meeting at the global trade watchdog's headquarters in Geneva this week for the first time in more than four years to thrash out new trade rules - a feat many doubt in an era of high geopolitical tensions.

The WTO's 164 members must all agree for new global trade rules to be passed, meaning that one member can block deals

The body's 164 members must all agree for new global trade rules to be passed, meaning that one member can block deals.

In this week's June 12-15 meeting prolonged until Thursday afternoon, that member has been India. New Delhi, which has a history of blocking multilateral negotiations, has stuck to long-held demands to maintain subsidies for fisheries and agriculture and pushed for extra carve-outs, trade sources say.

Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal's statements confirmed those demands.

"India is strongly representing its perspective at the WTO to protect the future of every Indian and that of the marginalized," he said on Twitter.

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Delegates including US Trade Representative Katherine Tai were involved in negotiations in the so-called 'Green Room' of the WTO most of the night trying to thrash out agreements. She tweeted a photo of Lake Geneva at sunrise without providing an update on the talks. Negotiations resume around 0700 GMT, trade sources said.

A source involved in the talks said a partial fisheries deal that falls "well short" of previous versions would be put before ministers at that time.

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WTO officials have maintained throughout the meetings that deals can be reached, saying that talks often look hopeless until a final bargain comes together.

Observers expressed frustration with the process.

"The ministerial (conference) laid bare the increasing dysfunction that inhibits collective action at the WTO," said Jake Colvin, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, adding that members should not reward "obstructionism".