India will participate in the WTO mini-ministerial meeting of key WTO members scheduled to be hosted by Australia on the sidelines of the OECD meet in Paris on May 2, sources have said.

“The meeting is likely to focus on the way forward after the WTO 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi in February 2024. Since MC13 failed to produce significant results, participants may discuss how best to handle difficult issues. India will stay firm on its position on important issues such as agriculture, fisheries and investment facilitation and will continue to protect the interests of its vulnerable population, including farmers,” a source tracking the matter told businessline.

India’s permanent representative to the WTO Senthil Pandian C and Commerce Department Additional Secretary Peeyush Kumar will represent the country at the meeting, the source added.

Trade Ministers and senior officials from some other prominent WTO members including the US, the EU, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia are expected to attend the mini-ministerial.

“New Delhi’s stress will be on protecting the interests of its resource poor farmers and fishers in the agriculture and fisheries subsidies talks. It will also keep out negotiations on issues such as investment facilitation for which a mandate does not exist,” the official said.

Pending issue

While India has been insisting that in the agriculture negotiations, the long-pending issue of arriving at a permanent solution for public stockholding subsidies should be sorted out first before other issues are taken up, it need not worry much about the order being changed.

“There are deep divisions between members including the US, Australia, the EU, and the Cairns group on the issues of domestic support and export restrictions in agriculture. It is unlikely that these will be resolved soon. So, India need not worry that these would be taken up before the public stockholding matter is sorted out. However, it will keep pushing for a permanent solution as it is long overdue,” the official said.

On fisheries subsidies, India’s official stand on the need to allow subsidies to developing countries and small economies to develop and diversify their fisheries sector as well as to protect the food security and livelihood security of their fishermen will be maintained.

New Delhi will also continue to oppose the proposal on ‘investment facilitation for development’ being pushed by a group of countries, both developed and developing, on the ground that the matter was not trade related and there was no mandate for negotiations on the matter, the official added.