Developing countries, LDCs should work together to correct imbalance in WTO reform agenda: India

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on May 13, 2019 Published on May 13, 2019

2-day informal meet of poorer members of the WTO begins in New Delhi

India has said the reform agenda being promoted at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) does not address the concerns of the developing countries, including Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and poorer members must work together to correct this.

“The reform initiatives must promote inclusiveness and non-discrimination, build trust and address the inequalities and glaring asymmetries in existing agreements. These asymmetries are against the interest of developing countries, including LDCs. There is a need to work together to put issues of importance for developing countries and their priorities in the reform agenda,” Commerce Secretary, Anup Wadhawan, said at the inaugural session of the meeting of developing countries and LDCs in New Delhi on Monday.

Twenty-three countries, including India, are meeting in New Delhi over two days to discuss key issues and challenges facing the multilateral trading system. Following the meeting of senior officials on Monday, trade ministers, delegation heads and the WTO Director-General will meet on Tuesday and try to agree on the ‘Delhi Declaration’ suggesting a way ahead at the WTO, including expectations for the forthcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Kazakhstan next June.

The Commerce Secretary pointed out that there was a strong push to completely relegate existing mandates and decisions and work done for the past many years, to the background, which was getting reflected in the on-going negotiations on fisheries subsidies (to be concluded at the Kazakhstan meet), where some members were trying to deny poorer countries special and differential treatment.

“The MC11 (ministerial conference 11) decision on fisheries subsidies clearly mandates that there should be an appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing countries. It is important for developing countries, including LDCs, to collectively work for a fair and equitable agreement on disciplines in fisheries subsidies, which takes into consideration the livelihood needs of subsistence fishermen and ground realities in our countries, and protects our policy space to develop capacities for harnessing our marine resources,” he said.

India further pointed out that the existential challenges to the multilateral rules based trading system are manifest in a spate of unilateral measures and counter-measures, deadlock in key areas of negotiations and the impasse in the Appellate Body.

“The harm that an institutional failure due to the collapse of the Appellate Body will cause will be felt more in developing countries, including LDCs, who need the protection of the rules based system more than developed countries. There is an urgent need to engage constructively to preserve the system and come up with constructive solutions to the problem,” he said.

India believes that developing countries need to work together to protect their interests in the WTO negotiations through preservation of the core fundamental principles of the WTO, he added. “The two-day meet gives an opportunity to the participating countries to develop a shared WTO reform proposal on issues of priority and interest for developing countries. This will help in building a common narrative on issues of importance for developing countries, including LDCs,” he said.

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Published on May 13, 2019
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