India, eight others, caution WTO against reforms that worsen imbalances

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on July 17, 2019 Published on July 17, 2019

The countries said the gap in the standards of living between developing and developed countries has not narrowed   -  jxfzsy

Say special and differential treatment for all developing countries is non-negotiable

In response to growing protectionism and questioning of the special dispensation for developing countries at the World Trade Organisation by rich nations, India, and some others such as Cuba, South Africa, Bolivia and Zimbabwe, have submitted a concept paper pointing out necessary areas of reform for strengthening of the multilateral organisation and the need to continue with special and differential treatment (S&D) for all developing members.

“In recent months, some members have suggested a broad range of reforms at the WTO including a slate of new rules, even though existing mandates from the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) remain unaddressed. WTO reform does not mean accepting either inherited inequities or new proposals that would worsen imbalances. Reforms must be premised on the principles of inclusivity and development and respond to the underlying causes of the current backlash against trade and the difficulties that developing members continue to face vis-à-vis their industrialisation challenges,” the paper said.

The concept paper, co-sponsored by India, South Africa, Cuba, Bolivia, Zimbabwe, Ecuador, Tunisia, Uganda and Malawi, has been circulated to the WTO General Council and will be later taken up for discussion while brainstorming on necessary WTO reforms by all members.

The immediate priorities for reform at the WTO must include resolving the crisis in the Appellate Body and addressing the unilateral actions taken by some members, the paper said.

“As per Articles 17.1 and 17.2 of the Dispute Settlement Undertaking, all WTO members have a collective duty to ensure the maintenance of a standing Appellate Body comprising seven members. It would be disingenuous to use the pretext of the Appellate Body’s alleged digression from the clear mandate of the DSU to justify wilful non-compliance with the same by the membership,” the paper said.

Judges for Appellate Body

With the US stalling the appointment of judges at the Appellate Body, it will become non-functional in December when the minimum number of judges required to run the body will not be met because of judges retiring.

“Attempts at addressing the crisis in the dispute settlement system must preserve its essential features namely an independent, two-tier dispute settlement system, automaticity in the launch of proceedings and decision-making by the Dispute Settlement Body by negative consensus, ” the paper said.

In response to arguments by some WTO members that many developing countries such as China, India and South Africa do not need special treatment any more, the paper said that available data indicated that the gap in the standards of living between developing and developed countries has not narrowed to any significant extent since the establishment of WTO. “This necessitates the preservation and strengthening of the S&D provisions in both current and future WTO agreements, with priority to outstanding LDC issues,” it said.

Reform must reaffirm the principle of S&D, which is a treaty-embedded, non-negotiable right for all developing countries in the WTO, it added.

Published on July 17, 2019
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