India proposes WTO pact on easing movement of professionals to meet Covid-19 challenges

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on May 10, 2021

At General Council meeting, New Delhi says Ministerial Conference (MC-12) this year must also address public stock holding, food security issues

India has proposed that a multilateral framework on movement of professionals should be part of the WTO’s Ministerial Conference (MC-12) agenda scheduled later this year to help deal with the challenges posed by the fast-spreading Covid-19 pandemic.

“The MC-12 must also deliver a simple, efficient, and permanent solution on extending public stock holding flexibilities for food security purposes to new programmes and new products,” said Brajendra Navnit, Ambassador & Permanent Representative of India to the WTO, at the recent General Council meeting of the multilateral trade body.

Feasible priorities

The WTO administration is planning to hold MC-12 on November 30-December 3 in Geneva, which is to be attended by trade ministers of all member countries. The Members are trying to zero in on the most feasible priorities for delivery.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need for ensuring easier cross-border movement of health care workers and other professionals providing essential services and it must be part of the MC-12 Trade & Health Package, proposed by many members,” Navnit pointed out.

India argued that easier norms for movement of health and other professionals needed to be included in such a pact as countries could have been able to mobilise a greater number of such professionals and meet increased demand if the trade practices in the services sector were not so restrictive.

Food security challenges

On public stock holding, India said that any effort to meet the food security challenges must address the structural deficiencies including through measures such as the special safeguard mechanism (SSM) to protect domestic farmers from import surges.

It insisted that not only should the permanent solution to allow developing countries like India to provide public stock holding subsidies without penalties be available for existing produce and schemes, it must also be extended to new programmes and new products in the future.

On the negotiations on the agreement to curb harmful fisheries subsidies, which is being projected by the WTO as one of the key deliverables of MC-12, India reiterated that “common but differentiated responsibility” and “polluter pays principle” should be applicable in any agreement relating to sustainability.

“Those with large number of industrial vessels and have provided huge subsidies leading to overfishing and over capacity should take higher cuts in subsidy and capacity. Special & Differential Treatment in the final outcome must be effective and appropriate, having regard to the development needs, livelihood and food security concerns of millions of small fishers of developing countries including LDCs,” India’s representative said.

New Delhi also objected to attempts being made by some member countries to bring in the non-mandated issue of Joint Statement Initiatives, such as e-commerce, domestic regulations and investment facilitation, as outcomes for MC12. “We urge everyone to keep their attention focused only on delivering results on mandated issues,” Navnit asserted.

Published on May 10, 2021

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