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Active Negotiations

  1. Agriculture remains one of the top priorities in WTO, as progress in this area could lead to significant improvements in how markets for food and agriculture function by helping to correct and prevent restrictions and distortions in global trade.

  2. Negotiations have been intensified on seven agricultural trade topics, namely public stockholding for food security purposes, trade-distorting domestic subsidies, cotton, market access, special safeguard mechanism, export competition, export restrictions and prohibition, as well as one cross-cutting issue, transparency.

  3. The 12th Ministerial Conference in 2022 adopted the Declaration on the emergency response to food insecurity, as well as Decision on exempting World Food Programme (WFP) humanitarian food purchases from export prohibitions or restrictions.

  4. Both respond to demands from the international community for immediate actions by members to address the impacts of food shortages and rising food prices on the most vulnerable (especially the developing and least-developed countries). The Declaration also underlines the commitment by WTO Members to take concrete steps to facilitate trade in improving global food security and the functioning and resilience of global food markets.

  5. Nevertheless, main issues in agriculture negotiations under the three pillars, namely Domestic Support, Market Access and Export Competition remain deadlocked. Members are exerting efforts to find new and creative approaches to close the gaps and chart the way forward on the most sensitive topics concerning agriculture reforms in the run-up to the 13th Ministerial Conference, particularly in areas of special safeguard mechanism and public stockholding for food security purposes.

  1. Developing countries and least-developed countries (LDCs) – comprise over two-thirds of WTO membership – are entitled to flexibilities in applying WTO rules, as accorded in WTO agreements' special provisions in recognition of the link between trade and development, with the flexibilities wider for LDCs. The work on trade and development is overseen by the Committee on Trade and Development.

  2. Among the special and differential provisions are those permitting preferential market access for developing countries and LDCs and longer transition periods for them to implement WTO agreements. The aim is to help developing countries and LDCs increase trade opportunities and safeguard trade interests.

  3. Since 2001, trade ministers have adopted several development-related decisions, including: 

  4. MC6 (2005): Aid for Trade initiative aims to help mobilize resources to address the trade-related constraints identified by developing countries; and members also pledged to provide duty-free and quota-free market access to LDCs.

  5. MC9 (2013): ‘Monitoring Mechanism’ on special and differential treatment, under which members may review special provisions for developing countries.

  6. MC10 (2015): Six ministerial decisions on agriculture, cotton and several initiatives in favour of LDCs adopted as part of the “Nairobi Package”. These include a commitment to abolish subsidies for farm exports, a longstanding demand by developing countries to level the playing field in international farm trade.

  7. The 12th Ministerial Conference in 2022 adopted the decision to reaffirm the commitments of Members to the Work Programme on Small Economies, which seeks to address specific challenges that small economies face in integrating into the world trading system. Previous work focused on the challenges faced by small economies in their efforts to reduce trade costs, particularly in the area of trade facilitation; opportunities and challenges for small economies in attracting investments; economic and trade impact of natural disasters on small economies.

  8. Upcoming work will be based on proposals submitted by small economies, on integrating small economies into the post COVID-19 economy: effects of the pandemic, challenges and opportunities, as well as on trade-related issues identified for the fuller integration of small, vulnerable economies in the multilateral trading system.

  1. WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, adopted at the 12th Ministerial Conference on 17 June 2022, marks a major step forward for ocean sustainability by prohibiting harmful fisheries subsidies, which are a key factor in the widespread depletion of the world’s fish stocks. It is the first WTO multilateral agreement with the inclusion of environmental sustainability at its core. It is also a major milestone for the WTO as the second agreement reached at the WTO since its inception.

  2. The Agreement sets new global rules to curb harmful subsidies and protect global fish stocks while recognizing the needs of fishers in developing and least-developed countries (LDCs). The agreement prohibits support for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, bans support for fishing in overfished stocks, as well as curbing subsidies for fishing on the unregulated high seas.

  3. Members also agreed at the 12th Ministerial Conference in 2022 to continue negotiations on outstanding issues, with a view to making recommendations by MC13 for additional provisions that would further enhance the disciplines of the Agreement.

  4. For the Agreement to become operational, two-thirds of members have to deposit their “instruments of acceptance” with the WTO. MITI works closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), as well as the Department of Fisheries (DOF) and Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM) is undertaking necessary domestic procedure prior to ratifying the Agreement.

  1. The push for WTO reform has gained momentum in recent years, reflecting the four general concerns:

  2. Challenges WTO members face in initiating, negotiating and concluding trade agreements, both for outstanding issues as well as for new issues;

  3. Need to strengthen the work of the WTO's regular bodies and committees as well as strengthen notification and transparency disciplines under existing agreements;

  4. Question of whether, and to what extent, the WTO's more advanced emerging economies should take on greater obligations under the WTO agreements, and whether existing special and differential treatment provisions for developing and least developed countries are sufficient or effective; and

  5. Improvements in the functioning of the WTO's dispute settlement system and overcoming the four-year impasse on the appointment of new Appellate Body members.

  6. The 12th Ministerial Conference in 2022 mandated the members to work towards WTO reform to improve all its functions through an open, transparent and inclusive process. The review will be carried out through the WTO's General Council and its subsidiary bodies, with the goal of submitting possible reform proposals to the 13th Ministerial Conference. Ministers also agreed to talks on addressing concerns with respect to the WTO's dispute settlement system with the view to securing a fully functioning system (Appellate Body) by 2024.

Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

  1. In response to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, the 12th Ministerial Conference in 2022 adopted the Declaration on WTO response to the current and future pandemics. This includes a waiver on COVID-19 vaccines. The TRIPS Council is still negotiating on a possible extension of the scope of the waiver to cover the production and supply of COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.

  2. Ministers also adopted the Ministerial Decision on TRIPS Non-Violation and Situation Complaints (NVCs), which extends the moratorium on TRIPS NVCs that deals with situations where a government may complain that it has been deprived of an expected benefit because of another government’s action, even if no agreement has been violated.

  3. The TRIPS Council has also been tasked to continue its examination of the scope and modalities for complaints of the types provided for under subparagraphs 1(b) and 1(c) of Article XXIII of GATT 1994 and make recommendations to the 13th Ministerial Conference.

  1. The Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA) entered into force on 22 February 2017 after two-thirds of the WTO membership completed their domestic ratification process. The TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It also provides for technical assistance and capacity building and special and differential treatment to address the needs and requirement of developing countries and LDCs in implementing the Agreement.

  2. Malaysia ratified the TFA on 26 May 2015 and has fully implemented her commitments in June 2021. The monitoring of Malaysia’s implementation of the TFA is under the purview of the National Committee on Trade Facilitation which is co-chaired by MITI and the Royal Malaysian Customs Department (RMCD).

  3. The 12th Ministerial Conference in 2022 agreed for the Committee on Trade Facilitation to hold a dedicated session on transit issues annually until the completion of the next review of the TFA. The TFA will be reviewed every 4 years, with the first review having been concluded on 26 November 2021.

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Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry
Menara MITI, No.7,
Jalan Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah,
50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tel: 603-8000 8000 | Fax: 03-6026 4693
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