India to attend WTO members meet in Paris

Amiti Sen New Delhi May 27 | Updated on May 27, 2018 Published on May 27, 2018

Suresh Prabhu, Commerce and Industry Minister   -  PAUL NORONHA

Informal Ministerial meeting will be held on the sidelines of OECD conference later this month

India and other key members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will discuss ways to combat growing protectionism across the world, including recent actions taken by the Trump regime in the US, at an informal meeting of select Trade Ministers at the OECD meet in Paris later this month.

“India’s Commerce & Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu has been invited to participate in the informal Ministerial meeting hosted by Australia in Paris. The EU, the US, Brazil, South Africa and China are among the members expected to attend,” a government official told BusinessLine. The OECD meet is taking place between May 31 and June 3.

The ways to take forward unresolved issues flowing from the Buenos Aires Ministerial meeting in December 2017 — such as food security and permanent solution for treating procurement subsidies, curbing fisheries subsidies and treatment of new issues such as e-commerce and investments — are also likely to be taken up.

New Delhi had hosted an informal meeting of select WTO members in March, where members stressed on the need to operate within the ambit of the multilateral trade forum and dispute settlement mechanism. No concrete decision, however, was taken on how to move ahead with the multilateral negotiations.

“There is a lot of anger against unilateral tariff action being taken by the US in the steel and aluminium sectors. Trump has now indicated that there may be similar action announced against automobile imports. These actions go against the spirit of the WTO which advocates that members cannot be singled out for application of higher tariffs,” the official said.

Retaliatory tariffs

The EU, India, China, Russia, Japan and Turkey have already threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on goods from the US if it imposes the additional tariffs on steel and aluminium imports that have been selectively announced on these countries. Prabhu is also likely to hold detailed discussions on the high import tariffs in his meeting scheduled with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in the week starting June 11.

The Trade Ministers will also discuss how to end the crisis triggered in the dispute settlement system of the WTO with the US refusing to approve the selection of new judges in the Appellate Body to replace the ones who have retired/left. The US wants certain changes in the dispute settlement system and is unwilling to approve new appointments till those are implemented.

“Some alternatives to settle disputes at the WTO need to be seriously explored as the short-staffed Dispute Settlement Body will soon not be able to handle new cases,” the official said.

The next WTO Ministerial Meet is scheduled in December 2019.

Published on May 27, 2018
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