12th Ministerial, Geneva 2021

Update: MC12 has now been postponed: Official announcement

The 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO is was scheduled to take place November 30 - December 3, 2021 in Geneva. The Director-General took that decision despite a significant number of Ministers and their lead officials not being able to travel safely to Geneva for the MC12. Some would be unable to travel at all, because ongoing COVID-related travel disruptions mean that there are no commercial flights in and out of their countries or accessible transit points. Many are from countries that are basically unvaccinated. The obvious inequities would favour those with Swiss-recognised vaccinations, ease of travel, proximity and Geneva-based delegations – that is rich countries from the Global North.

Unbelievably, the institution whose rules enforce vaccine apartheid, attempted to have a meeting under conditions of vaccine apartheid, without having first resolved that apartheid by agreeing to the TRIPS waiver. Even though the decision to hold a Ministerial when some Ministers are unable to attend would ensure that any decisions taken in this context lack any pretence of legitimacy. The WTO claims to be a consensus based organisation.

The determination to proceed with the MC12 continued the long-standing efforts of rich and powerful WTO Members to control the WTO’s agenda and decisions, and to marginalise the governments of the Global South and the world’s peoples.

Corporate boosters are advocating for expanding the failed model of the WTO through plurilateral agreements on investment facilitation, domestic regulation of services and digital trade (so-called e-commerce). They are attempting to legitimize these illegal “Joint Statement Initiative” (JSI) plurilateral negotiations to make the WTO even more corporate-driven.

Developed countries are also pursuing an agreement to discipline fisheries subsidies, but without the mandate on development.

Instead, negotiators should focus on transforming the existing rules to allow countries to pursue development and shared prosperity, in areas such as agriculture and the development agenda.

The most important agenda for the WTO is to remove intellectual property barriers to resolve the COVID-19 pandemic, by agreeing to a waiver on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rules (TRIPS) in the WTO.

Quotes: Problems with Holding WTO’s MC12 In-Person with the New Variants and European Travel Bans on Southern Africa. (26 November 2021)

What’s at Stake at the WTO? (Deborah James, 25 November 2021)

Letter to WTO Members: Postpone the 12th Ministerial - TRIPS Waiver Now!   English, Spanish, French, media release. (23 November 2021)

WTO Ministerial Shaping Up To Repeat The Power Politics Of COP 26. (Professor Jane Kelsey, 17 November 2021)

Global Civil Society Calls for a WTO Turnaround: New Multilateral Trade Rules for People-Centered Shared Prosperity and Sustainable Development (2021): English, Spanish, French.

MC12: What outcomes would strengthen multilateralism? (Civil Society Event at the WTO Public Forum, 30 September 2021) [full list of Civil Society (free, virtual) Events at the WTO Public Forum 28 September - 1 October 2021)]

Over 200 organizations from 67 countries say: “Fundamentally transform the WTO: The WTO’s own policies have caused its existential crisis, which the COVID-19 crisis only amplified”: English, Spanish, French. (28 April 2021)

Letter to WTO Director General from members of Our World Is Not for Sale. (26 April 2021)

Access to medicines, TRIPS waiver

The global health community, civil society around the world, legislators, international agencies, former heads of state, and over 100 WTO members support the waiver on intellectual property rules on COVID-19 related treatments, diagnostics, and vaccines to end the pandemic. The TRIPS waiver can be agreed at any General Council meeting and does NOT require a Ministerial. This is the ONLY agenda that WTO Members should be focusing on at this time.

Global Call to Action: WTO Waiver Now to End the Pandemic!

Quotes and photos from the press conference “No profit on covid”. (30 November 2021)

Please see here for extensive information on the importance of the TRIPS waiver.

Sham “Walker Process”

Having refused for over a year to agree to the waiver that would resolve the pandemic, trade negotiators from the EU, Switzerland, Canada, the UK, and a few other countries - representing the interests of Big Pharma over their own citizens and global public health - have invented a diversionary tactic called the “Walker Process.” Allegedly a “WTO Response to the Covid-19,” this process is designed to try to save the WTO from its increasing irrelevance and illegitimacy, by drawing attention away from the WTO’s failure to remove the barriers of its Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rules (TRIPS) agreement to resolving the pandemic.

Leaked text. (22 November 2021)

Open letter to WTO Director General and all WTO Members Against the Sham “Walker Process” and in Favor of the TRIPS Waiver: English, Arabic. (19 November 2021)

Press Release on CSO Open Letter to WTO Director General and all WTO Members Against the Sham “Walker Process” and in Favor of the TRIPS Waiver. (19 November 2021)

Quotes from Civil Society on the so-called Walker Process. (18 November 2021)

WHAT’S COOKING FOR MC12? Two processes that could reshape the WTO in the interest of the most powerful: English, Spanish. (14 November 2021)

Seeking market access behind the veil of combating COVID-19. (Abhijit Das, Murali Kallummal and Sachin Kumar Sharma, Centre for WTO Studies, India, June 2020)

COVID-19: South opposes attempts to foist trade liberalization measures (20 May 2020)

COVID-19 and WTO: Debunking developed countries’ narratives on trade measures. (May 2020)

The insanity of business-as-usual trade negotiations: While most nations are focused on coping with Covid-19 and its aftermath, some rich countries are pushing binding WTO rules. (7 May 2020)

COVID-19 and WTO: Debunking developed countries’ narratives on trade measures. (South Centre, May 2020)

Letter from 400 organizations from more than 150 countries to WTO Members: Stop all trade and investment treaty negotiations during the COVID-19 outbreak and refocus on access to medical supplies and saving lives: English, Spanish, French. (30 April 2020)

COVID-19: Trade policy choices during and after pandemic (22 April 2020)

WTO reform

WHAT’S COOKING FOR MC12? Two processes that could reshape the WTO in the interest of the most powerful: English, Spanish. (14 November 2021)

Global Civil Society Calls for a WTO Turnaround: New Multilateral Trade Rules for People-Centered Shared Prosperity and Sustainable Development (2021): English, Spanish, French. (27 September 2021)

Investment Facilitation Joint Statement Initiative: No home in the WTO, by Jane Kelsey. (September 2021)

Why the Joint Statement Initiatives Lack Legal Legitimacy in the WTO, by Law Professor Jane Kelsey, a rebuttal to a previous document by Hamid Mamdouh, “Plurilateral Negotiations and Outcomes in the WTO.” Resumen en español. (22 June 2021)

Over 200 organizations from 67 countries say: “Fundamentally transform the WTO: The WTO’s own policies have caused its existential crisis, which the COVID-19 crisis only amplified”: English, Spanish, French. (CSO letter, 28 April 2021)

Letter to WTO Director General from members of Our World Is Not for Sale. (26 April 2021)

As WTO dispute settlement system collapses, civil society calls attention to need for fundamental change in global trade. (9 December 2019)

more on WTO process issues …

General news updates on negotiations at MC12

Divided and paralysed, can the WTO negotiate a pandemic recovery plan that is fair for all?, by Jane Kelsey. (24 November 2021)

Differences persist at WTO on "deliverables" for MC12, by D. Ravi Kanth. (23 November 2021)

Emergence of "vaccine apartheid" at WTO's upcoming MC12?, by D. Ravi Kanth. (23 November 2021)

New round of talks stoked by US, EU to transform WTO against South, by D. Ravi Kanth. (19 November 2021)

EU to push its trade-related environmental measures into WTO, by D. Ravi Kanth. (18 November 2021)

WTO reform & WTO pandemic response. (17 November 2021)

EU & Brazil proposal on WTO reforms - a "monster" in the making, by D. Ravi Kanth. (16 November 2021)

Discussions on fundamental WTO reforms fail to garner consensus, by D. Ravi Kanth. (11 November 2021)

US stymies LDCs' proposed best endeavour interim decision at WTO, by D. Ravi Kanth. (9 November 2021)

Prospects for a new "stealth" round of trade talks growing at WTO, by D. Ravi Kanth. (3 November 2021)

WTO: Walker process on response to pandemic raises questions of credibility, by D. Ravi Kanth. (1 November 2021)

Is WTO's MC12 paving the way for new trade negotiations?, by D. Ravi Kanth. (28 October 2021)

WTO: Four South countries propose bold approach on response to pandemic, by D. Ravi Kanth. (27 October 2021)

Danger of WTO's Doha MC4 in 2001 repeating itself at MC12 in 2021, by D. Ravi Kanth. (26 October 2021)

Battle shifts to WTO on "take-it-or-leave-it" agreements at MC12, by D. Ravi Kanth. (14 October 2021)

G20 officials bicker over industrial subsidies, data flows & WTO reforms, by D. Ravi Kanth. (12 October 2021)

WTO General Council meeting exposes fissures ahead of MC12, by D. Ravi Kanth. (11 October 2021)

Ministers deliver divergent messages on WTO "deliverables" for MC12, by D. Ravi Kanth. (8 October 2021)

WTO DG delivers mixed signals for MC12, by D. Ravi Kanth. (7 October 2021)

US calls for post-MC12 action plan while Doha issues are marginalized, by TWN. (27 September 2021)

Concerns voiced over possible "rigged" decisions at MC12, by D. Ravi Kanth. (14 September 2021)

WTO: Opposition to inclusion of export restrictions in Covid-19 response, by D. Ravi Kanth. (8 September 2021)

South faces moment of truth on development issues in run-up to MC12, by D. Ravi Kanth. (13 August 2021)

Members remain divided on MC12 issues at WTO General Council meet, by D. Ravi Kanth. (30 July 2021)

South countries warn credibility of WTO hangs in balance at MC12, by D. Ravi Kanth. (27 July 2021)

WTO DG tasks DDGs to deliver on controversial, non-mandated issues, by D. Ravi Kanth. (5 July 2021)

Developed countries unlikely to deliver on mandated issues at MC12, by D. Ravi Kanth. (29 June 2021)

JSIs lack legal status, fragments WTO, by D. Ravi Kanth. (10 May 2021)

UN: UNCTAD unveils portal on Covid-19's impact on trade & development, by Kanaga Raja. (6 May 2021)

Differences on deliverables for WTO's 12th ministerial conference, by D. Ravi Kanth. (5 May 2021)

WTO DG indifferent to Doha TNC mandate?, by D. Ravi Kanth. (4 May 2021)

CSOs call for transformation of WTO that "puts people first", by D. Ravi Kanth. (4 May 2021)

UNCTAD calls for new development pathways in reform of WTO, by D. Ravi Kanth. (30 April 2021)

UNCTAD Paper:  Reforming international trading system for recovery, resilience & inclusive development. (30 April 2021)

Several WTO members oppose hybrid negotiating sessions at MC12, by D. Ravi Kanth. (1 April 2021)

Leaders want to address future pandemics while ignoring COVID-19, by D. Ravi Kanth. (31 March 2021)

WTO DG creates new unit to deliver results at MC12, by D. Ravi Kanth. (15 March 2021)

US to work with DG and like-minded members on WTO reform, by D. Ravi Kanth. (3 March 2021)

New WTO DG delivers "divisive" trade agenda at GC meeting, by D. Ravi Kanth. (2 March 2021)

New WTO Director-General leans towards Northern trade agenda, by D. Ravi Kanth. (17 February 2021)

Fisheries

Protecting the Problem – Fisheries subsidies negotiations and the WTO (17 March 2021)

Analysis of the Overcapacity and Overfishing Pillar of the WTO Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations (South Centre Research Paper, November 2020)

Call to Halt Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations in the Middle of the COVID 19 Crisis: English, Spanish, French. (1 April 2020)

Fisheries subsidies negotiations and development in the World Trade Organization. (October 2019)

Market access the true aim of WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations: English, Spanish. (April 2018)

more on fisheries …

Investment facilitation

Some WTO Members are negotiating rules on facilitating investment: WTO plurilateral investment facilitation draft consolidated text (as of 23 July 2021)

Investment Facilitation Joint Statement Initiative: No home in the WTO, by Jane Kelsey. (September 2021)

UNCITRAL fiddles while countries burn, by Jane Kelsey and Kinda Mohamadieh. (September 2021)

The Investment Facilitation Framework & Most Favoured Nation (MFN) Treatment by Peter Lunenborg. (September 2021)

Why the Joint Statement Initiatives lack legal legitimacy in the WTO, by Law Professor Jane Kelsey, a rebuttal to a previous document by Hamid Mamdouh, “Plurilateral Negotiations and Outcomes in the WTO.” Resumen en español. (22 June 2021)

Scope of an investment facilitation framework: Implications for its developmental claim, by Kinda Mohamadieh. (July 2020)

Plurilateral initiatives and their interaction with WTO rules (TWN Policy Brief, 2020)

Investment facilitation – Another plurilateral initiative at the WTO and its potential implications (TWN, October 2019)

Rebuttal to “The WTO Investment Facilitation Initiative: Why It Matters” – background note: Investment Facilitation for Development: Opening the doors of the WTO for hard rules on investment (December 2017)

more on investment …

Services

Reference paper on services domestic regulations: Overview of main content and regulatory implications (Kinda Mohamadieh, TWN, November 2021)

Briefing note on Services Domestic Regulation JSI text of 27 September 2021 (INF/SDR/1) (Jane Kelsey, TWN, October 2021)

Briefing paper: Disciplining non-discriminatory domestic regulations in the services sectors – Another plurilateral track at the WTO. (Kinda Mohamadieh, TWN, October 2019)

Session at the 2019 WTO Public Forum: #111. What would services as the next trade frontier look like? (11 October 2019)

Session at the 2019 WTO Public Forum: #119. Why are computer and related services important? (11 October 2019)

Two-page summary: “Domestic regulation” rules in the WTO: English: pdf, docx. Spanish: pdf, doc. (November 2017)

more on services…

Development agenda

Reforming the international trading system for recovery, resilience and inclusive development. (UNCTAD Research Paper No. 65, April 2021)

Updated TWN Briefing paper on International negotiations by virtual means in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. (24 March 2021)

New WTO DG delivers "divisive" trade agenda at GC meeting. (2 March 2021)

Recovering better from COVID-19 will need a rethink of multilateralism. (10 November 2020)

South sets out developmental priorities in face of COVID-19 (4 June 2020)

more on the development agenda …

Agriculture

Agricultural negotiations for MC12: A factsheet for developing countries: English, Spanish. (Ranja Sengupta, TWN, 13 November 2021)

Inequitable WTO rules in agriculture continue to impact farmers in the developing world: English, Spanish. (Ranja Sengupta, ALAI, April 2018)

Agriculture remains key. (Ranja Sengupta, 22 November 2017)

WTO summit to ignore price crisis, agricultural dumping. (Timothy Wise, 10 December 2017)

WTO and Food Security: Biting the hand that feeds the poor. (Timothy Wise, December 2017)

For India, the fight at WTO will be about food security. (Sachin Kumar Jain, 9 December 2017)

Climate protection

Environment- and climate-related JSIs: Caveat emptor (TWN, 25 November 2021)

Digital trade

Digital Trade Rules: A disastrous new constitution for the global economy written by and for Big Tech: English, Spanish. (2020)

E-commerce proposals at the WTO: a recipe for corporate greed. (30 April 2020)

Digital trade rules and Big Tech: Surrendering public good to private power. (February 2020)

US to target countries that impose digital services taxes. (4 June 2020)

Updated Twelve Reasons: English: pdf, docx. Spanish: pdf, doc. French: pdf, docx. (31 March 2019)

more on the digital economy …