COSATU welcomes World Trade Organisation’s Agreement

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and Organised Labour welcomes the Agreement that has emerged at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).  Significant advances have been made in areas that are crucial for public policy in South Africa, including in the overall architecture of the ETO and its ability to respond to development issues.  COSATU welcomes the terms of the text and congratulate our government for being part of this historic agreement . We know that many developed countries had not been supportive of the areas of agreement achieved, as this threatens their vested financial interests. But we are pleased that consensus was reached in the end that advances the interest of developing countries, including South Africa.

The discussions on the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement was tough but we are happy that what emerged is a basic to go forward with local production of Covid-19 vaccines in particular.  The most significant part of the Agreement was on the TRIPS waiver for Covid-19 vaccines, which allows Governments to authorise local manufacturers to produce vaccines or their ingredients, substances or elements which are covered by patents, without the permission of the patent holders during the pandemic.

The Agreement on fishing is a welcome development and this will go a long way to defending our fishing stocks which have been under severe pressure for over and illegal fishing by foreign trawlers at the expense of local fishing communities and companies.  

The progress on E-commerce and WTO reforms are welcomed and the final details must now be thrashed out in the WTO, within the timeframes allocated.

Agriculture remains an area that more work needs to be done and we look forward to expanding the space for South African agriculture in the new future.

Whilst not all of our ambitions were achieved in this round of the WTO, we do believe that this agreement goes a long way to restore the credibility of a rules based trading system that must be fair and equitable, whilst advancing a developmental agenda globally. It is encouraging that developing countries could collaborate so effectively and pressure developed countries to advance a fairer approach to economic development in the rules based system . We look forward to this new approach of doing what is morally justifiable and responding to global pandemics with urgency.  We commend Ministers Ebrahim Patel of Trade, Industry and Competition and Thoko Didiza of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and their teams for the solid work done in the WTO.

Issued by COSATU

 For further information please contact Tony Ehrenreich at 082 773 3194.