Delhi ministerial will help take talks forward: WTO DG

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New Delhi, March 19 (IANS) Discussions at the WTO’s ongoing mini-minsterial meeting here will be useful for the global trade body to progress on issues like the earlier Doha Round of negotiations and its dispute settlement system, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said on Monday.

Representatives from 50 countries invited by India are meeting here informally for a World Trade Organisation (WTO) mini-ministerial meeting over March 19-20.

“The Delhi meeting will be informal as well as important. I hope it will be directed and the inputs here will be useful for our meeting in Geneva, to take the negotiations forward on items in the Doha Round and on other issues,” Azevedo told reporters here at a briefing organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

“We have very significant challenges before us. The WTO dispute settlement system by a blockage in the appointment of appelate body members and this will be a focus of our conversations in New Delhi,” he said.

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Following the collapse of WTO Buenos Aires ministerial talks last December, India has called this informal meeting of ministers, without a pre-announced agenda, to facilitate an exchange of views on various challenges facing the multilateral trading system “with the hope that it will lead to political guidance on some major issues”.

This is the second WTO mini-ministerial meeting being hosted by India, after the first in 2009.

The talks at the 11th ministerial conference at Buenos Aires broke down as the US reneged on its commitment, along with other countries, to find a permanent solution to the issue of public food stockholding by WTO members. The US representative to declared in a small group meeting that a permanent solution to the food stockholding issue was not acceptable to America.

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Under WTO norms, a member-country’s food subsidy bill should not breach the limit of 10 per cent of the value of production based on the reference price of 1986-88.

India has been seeking amendments to the formula on stockholding, fearing that full implementation of its food security programme could result in breaching the WTO subsidy limit.

At the Buenos Aires ministerial, India continued to press for the reduction of farm subsidies by developed countries and resisted inclusion of new issues on the negotiating table like e-commerce and investment facilitation into the ongoing Doha Round of talks that have a developmental agenda in case these dilute the commitment to complete the existing agenda.

Protectionism and the US President Donald Trump slapping import tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium last week, unfolding the prospect of an all-out global trade war, are among other issues likely to be discussed at the New Delhi meeting.

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“It is a moment of many challenges inside the WTO and outside. The trade environment is very risky at this point,” Azevedo said.

Noting that the US has reiterated various times its support for the WTO, Azevedo said that it also has concerns, but about the functioning of the multilateral body.

The US feels that conditions have changed much since the WTO’s inception in 1995 and that “some upgrades and reforms are in order”, he added.

–IANS

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