Economy

At WTO meet, India fumes over attempts to start talks on MSMEs

Amiti Sen Buenos Aires | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on December 12, 2017

Rita Teaotia, Commerce Secretary

Seeks to register protest with MC 11 chair as it could provide ‘back-door entry’ to issues such as e-commerce, investment facilitation

Tempers are running high in the Indian camp over attempts being made by some nations to begin discussions on market access for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) at the World Trade Organisation’s ongoing Eleventh Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires (MC 11).

New Delhi fears that this could lead to back-door entry for many issues that it has been resisting — such as e-commerce and investment facilitation; it has sought a meeting with the Chair of MC 11 Susana Malcorra to register its protest.

“At the first heads of delegation meeting on Monday night, there were aggressive attempts to introduce MSMEs in the talks,” an Indian official told BusinessLine. “There was no opportunity to express one’s resistance. This is totally unacceptable as it could lead to entry for new issues such as e-commerce, investment facilitation and public procurement.”

The Indian negotiating team will meet Argentine Minister Malcorra, who is chairing all the important meetings, on Tuesday, to protest against the move and stress that a separate discussion group on MSME was not on the mandate for MC 11.

A number of developed country members, including the US and the EU, who are pushing for negotiations on e-commerce and investment facilitation, are also championing the “supposed” cause of MSMEs.

“This is just a ploy to indirectly get market access in areas where they are being denied access by arguing that it would benefit MSMEs,” the official said.

Farm talks

New Delhi is also adopting an aggressive posture in the agriculture negotiations stating that an outcome at the MC 11 without a permanent solution to the problem of public stockholding will affect the credibility of the WTO.

“The (Commerce) Minister, (Suresh Prabhu), has made it amply clear that India cannot envisage an outcome without a permanent solution,” Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

She said that facilitator group meetings had started on agriculture, as on other areas, and members were trying to move towards a “common landing zone”. While India has been demanding a permanent solution that goes beyond the existing peace clause with less onerous transparency and notification requirements, the EU and Brazil want to introduce harsher terms.

Food subsidy: US refuses to play ball

The US has refused to support a decision on a permanent solution for public stockholding subsidies sought by India and other developing countries.

This leads to apprehensions that the WTO’s Ministerial Conference at Buenos Aires may collapse.



“US Assistant Trade Representative Sharon Bomer Lauritsen said at a small group meeting just now that the US will not allow a permanent solution. This means that there will be no agreement on agriculture and as a result the entire Ministerial talks may collapse,” a government official said. India and the G-33 group of developing countries have been pushing for a permanent solution to allow subsidies for MSP without the present 10 per cent cap.

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Published on December 12, 2017
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