India has called for prioritisation of real-life trade issues at the WTO which impact developing countries, such as access to finance and technology, bridging digital divide,  enhancing effective aid for trade, food security and issues holding back digital development.

In a paper on ‘30 years of WTO: how has development dimension progressed? – a way forward’ submitted recently to the WTO General Council, India asked all members to submit proposals on such issues to bring back focus on the development dimension of WTO.

“Development dimension has been at the core of the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation. The preamble of the Marrakesh Agreement accords primacy to the developmental objectives of this organisation….The WTO as an institution is envisaged to be the defender of the rights of the weak and the vulnerable among its members, and to act as a voice for reason and equity in the din of clashing interests,” the paper stated.

On the latest WTO ministerial conference at Abu Dhabi earlier this year, the paper noted that there is substantial unfinished development agenda emanating from the MC13 Abu Dhabi Ministerial Declaration. “We seek to strengthen the discussions and debate on the issue of development in the working of all regular bodies of this Organisation. We wish that the momentum on development discussions continues in a focused and structured way, and we make concerted efforts to comply with the Ministers’ decisions and directions on the core area of our work,” it said.

India suggested that WTO bodies, which hold thematic sessions, should devote at least one session in 2024 to addressing developmental needs and concerns. They should also devote at least one session to zooming in further and discussing specific needs of LDCs, LLDCs and Small Island Development States. 

Further, WTO bodies which do not hold thematic sessions currently, can begin doing so this year for a discussion on developmental concerns. “WTO bodies which are underutilised – for example, the Working Group on Trade and Transfer of Technology and the Working Group on Trade, Debt and Finance should be reinvigorated, bringing in greater coherence with relevant intergovernmental organisations,” the paper added.

India and some other developing countries have been fighting attempts by some members, mostly developed countries, to dilute the special and differential treatment (for developing countries) component in the on-going negotiations in various areas.

The S&DT provisions of WTO agreements were conceptualised to give developing countries special rights and allow other members to treat them more favourably.