Negotiations at the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in Abu Dhabi on Thursday were extended for another day, with the WTO announcing the closing session had been delayed, and no sign of a breakthrough in talks to set new global commerce rules.

The biennial conference is seeking deals on ending fishing subsidies and extending a moratorium on digital trade tariffs — a move that India and South Africa oppose.

Trade delegates were expecting negotiations to carry on throughout the night as officials sought to hammer out agreements on a cross-section of changes to trade rules.

The scheduled announcement of a final agreement after four days of intergovernmental talks was pushed back for a fifth day until 2pm on Friday in the Gulf state. The closing session was earlier delayed by four hours until midnight.

Some participants expressed scepticism that a deal would be reached by then, telling Reuters that serious differences remained on a range of issues meant to address global trade.

“Tense! Difficult,” said one delegate on condition of anonymity.

New Zealand’s trade minister Todd McClay said it was a good sign that delegates were still trying to thrash out issues and expected this to continue late into the night.

“There is a desire for an outcome but there are delegations on both sides of issues saying: the only way we can have an outcome is if our concerns are addressed,” he told Reuters.

However, McClay, who is the facilitator on talks to extend a 25-year moratorium on digital tariffs, said there had been no movement yet on overcoming a deadlock.

India’s trade minister said it was a shame some nations were blocking agreements, but he gave little sign that New Delhi would drop its opposition to extending a waiver on digital tariffs.

“Of course, we feel sad that some countries are still obstructing significant outcomes that could have helped less developed countries and developing countries gain confidence in the working of WTO,” Piyush Goyal told reporters on the final day of the talks.

Still, he voiced optimism that such outcomes could be achieved in the talks.

Fisheries draft deal faces opposition

A grouping of Pacific islands, including Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, were also opposing a draft deal on changes to fisheries subsidies, with Fiji’s deputy prime minister telling Reuters it did not go far enough.

“We would like the large subsidising countries to put a cap on the current level of subsidies,” Manoa Seru Kamikamica said.

A trade delegate from a developed country dismissed this prospect saying: “It’s never going to happen. It’s come too late”.

India’s Goyal did not name the countries that he said were blocking results at the talks. But he said his top priority was fixing the WTO’s dispute system, adding he had raised the lack of progress with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai in a Wednesday meeting.

“The first and highest priority is to get the Appellate Body of the dispute resolution mechanism in place because without that all the decisions we are taking cannot be adjudicated upon,” he said.

The WTO’s top appeals court has been hamstrung for four years due to US opposition to judge appointments and remains out of service. Tai already ruled out an agreement on WTO dispute settlement appeals reform this week, but said negotiations were showing progress.

Follow Dawn Business on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook for insights on business, finance and tech from Pakistan and across the world.

Opinion

Editorial

Afghan puzzle
Updated 28 May, 2024

Afghan puzzle

Unless these elements are neutralised, it will not be possible to have the upper hand over terrorist groups.
Attacking minorities
28 May, 2024

Attacking minorities

Mobs turn into executioners due to the authorities’ helplessness before these elements.
Persistent scourge
28 May, 2024

Persistent scourge

THE challenge of polio in Pakistan has reached a new nadir, drawing grave concerns from the Technical Advisory Group...
Mercury rising
Updated 27 May, 2024

Mercury rising

Each of the country's leaders is equally responsible for the deep pit Pakistan seems to have fallen into.
Antibiotic overuse
27 May, 2024

Antibiotic overuse

ANTIMICROBIAL resistance is an escalating crisis claiming some 700,000 lives annually in Pakistan. It is the third...
World Cup team
27 May, 2024

World Cup team

PAKISTAN waited until the very end to name their T20 World Cup squad. Even then, there was last-minute drama. Four...