In a big show of unity for the World Trade Organization, several deals were inked deep into overtime at the group's twelfth ministerial meeting in Geneva. "The outcomes demonstrate that the WTO is in fact capable of responding to emergencies of our time," Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala announced. It took nearly five days of wrangling, but delegates cheered after they passed a package of six agreements, which could put renewed momentum behind the $28T global trading system.
Highlights: Under an arrangement known as compulsory licensing, member countries agreed to a vaccine patent waiver as a way to boost supplies of COVID-19 shots to lower income countries. Companies like Pfizer had fought the stance in the past, calling IP rights the "blood of the private sector." It also wouldn't solve supply problems or allow for quality checks, according to the company, though proponents say that is not the case, and the current framework is leading to global vaccine inequality.
Another deal was reached on overfishing after India insisted on a 25-year exemption based on its status as a developing country. Nations will be prohibited from providing subsidies for illegal or unreported fishing, as well as financial aid to vessels fishing in unregulated international waters. The agreement was especially momentous as it was the culmination of two decades of negotiations and the first regulated trade deal ever reached at the WTO on sustainability grounds.
Other areas: Trade ministers temporarily extended duty-free trade in digital products like music and movies. Without renewing the 1998 accord, higher prices could have been in store for cross-border purchases made by customers of Amazon Prime (AMZN), Apple Music (AAPL) and Netflix (NFLX). The meeting was also notable at a time of major geopolitical tensions - such as the war in Ukraine, which has driven a wedge between the West and autocratic governments, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, which exacerbated the divide between richer and poorer countries.