Philippines to push WTO for vaccine access, fisheries subsidies

30-Nov-2021 Intellasia | PhilStar | 5:02 AM Print This Post

The Philippines will push for inclusive access for vaccines and the conclusion of negotiations on fisheries subsidies, even as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting has been postponed.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, in a statement over the weekend, said the Philippines was looking forward to the 12th ministerial Conference of the WTO scheduled tomorrow (November 30) until December 3 in Geneva, Switzerland, as the country wants to secure its interests on trade and investment issues.

The WTO meeting has been postponed indefinitely after the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus led several governments to impose travel restrictions, which may prevent ministers from making it to the conference.

Among the expectations from the meeting is the conclusion of the fisheries subsidies negotiations, as well as ministerial decisions or statements on access to vaccines and medicines, e-commerce, investment facilitation, and services domestic regulations.

“Despite the postponement, we will continue to engage in domestic and international work towards the attainment of our national objectives,” Lopez said.

In particular, the Philippines will push for decisions on trade and health to make vaccines and therapeutics more inclusive, as well as the conclusion of the fisheries subsidies negotiations.

“Access to safe, effective affordable and high-quality diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines has been a consistent policy advocated by President Duterte, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and the Department of Trade and Industry across all fora such as in the recent meetings of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Association of Southeast Asian Nations and in bilateral engagements, and a concrete decision at the WTO forum on trade and health would have been a milestone in addressing this objective,” he said.

“This cancellation due to the new variant drives the point that no one is safe until everyone is safe, and it illustrates the relevance and responsibility of WTO members to address any and all issues that prevent inclusive access to vaccines and therapeutics,” Lopez said.

He said the government has been working with the private sector to encourage investments not just in vaccine and medicine production, but also in research and development and clinical trial tests.

“Research and development is a critical component of this exercise, as the virus continues to evolve and mutate. In the same manner manufacturing and distribution of vaccines must be sustained as the demand continues and the need for booster shots is now imperative,” he said.

Apart from access to vaccines, the Philippines also wants to finalise fisheries subsidies negotiations, with the main objective of making sure no geographic area is carved out just because a territorial issue is raised by a member state.

“In addressing issues and concerns on fisheries subsidies, it is important that relevant international laws are considered, particularly on the issue of territoriality or delimitation of maritime jurisdiction,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who serves as co-lead of the Philippine delegation with Lopez.

Negotiations aimed at removing subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as well as overfishing have been ongoing for 20 years.

The ministerial conference, which usually meets every two years, brings all the members of the WTO together and serves as the topmost decision-making body of the organisation.

While Kazakhstan was initially set to host the ministerial conference in June last year, it was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last WTO ministerial conference was held in Buenos Aires in Argentina in 2017.


Category: Philippines

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