A ministerial meeting of the developing countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) here on Tuesday urged all the members of the global trading body to engage constructively to resolve the ongoing impasse on the dispute settlement system that threatens to completely paralyse the organisation by this year-end.
This was decided at a meeting of 18 developing countries after a two-day meeting chaired by India and attended among others by China. Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu headed the Indian delegation to the meeting that discussed recent developments at the WTO and explore ways for working with all Members to strengthen the multilateral trading system.
In the outcome document, the countries said they reaffirmed that the dispute settlement system of the WTO is a central element in providing security and predictability to the multilateral trading system.
This has proved to be more effective and reliable as compared to its predecessor, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
"We note with concern that Members have failed to arrive at a consensus in the selection process to fill vacancies in the Appellate Body. This ongoing impasse has weakened the dispute settlement system and threatens to completely paralyze it by December 2019.
"We, therefore, urge all WTO Members to engage constructively to address this challenge without any delay in filling the vacancies in the Appellate Body, while continuing discussions on other issues relating to the functioning of the dispute settlement mechanism," the meeting said.
Countries also declared the preeminence of WTO as a global forum for trade rules setting and governance.
"We note with concern the multiple challenges confronting the rules-based multilateral trading system and agree to work together with all WTO Members to strengthen the WTO, make it more effective and continue to remain relevant to the diverse needs of its Members, in line with objectives of the WTO," it said.
The outcome document also said an inclusive multilateral trading system based on equality and mutual respect should ensure that all WTO Members abide by WTO rules and abjure any form of protectionism.
The core value and basic principles of the multilateral trading system must be preserved and strengthened, particularly with a view to building trust among Members.
"To this end, we urge WTO Members to adopt measures that are compatible with WTO rules to avoid putting the multilateral trading system at risk," the countries said.
They felt that multilateral avenues, based on consensus, remain the most effective means to achieve inclusive development-oriented outcomes.
Members may need to explore different options to address the challenges of contemporary trade realities in a balanced manner. We note that in the post-MC 11 phase, many Members have evinced interest in pursuing outcomes in some areas through joint initiatives approach. The outcomes of these initiatives should be conducive to strengthening the multilateral trading system and be consistent with WTO rules.
The developing countries also recalled that international trade is not an end in itself but a means of contributing to certain objectives, including raising standards of living.
Special and Differential Treatment is one of the main defining features of the multilateral trading system and is essential to integrating developing Members into global trade. Special and Differential Treatment provisions are rights of developing Members that must be preserved and strengthened in both current and future WTO agreements, with priority attention to outstanding least developed countries (LDC) issues.
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