WTO ministerial meet aims at re-energising multilateral trading system: India

India Tuesday said the ministerial meeting of 23 WTO member countries here is aimed at re-energising the multi-lateral trading system, and exuded confidence that collective views of developing countries will help in reforming the global trade body.

The two-day ministerial meeting is scheduled to come with a declaration on issues being faced by developing countries, including WTO's special and differential treatment (S&DT) norms.

The S&DT norms provide flexibility to developing member countries in the WTO. Under this, they enjoy benefits like higher domestic support for the agriculture sector and longer time periods for implementing agreements and binding commitments.

As part of reforms in the WTO, the US is arguing that countries which are doing well in terms of economic growth and prosperity should not be allowed S&DT benefits.

"The approach of the New Delhi ministerial meeting is to re-energise and strengthen multilateralism and put in place a more inclusive decision-making process. Towards this end, it is essential that the collective view of as many developing countries as possible is formally articulated in submissions on WTO reforms," an official statement said.

Addressing the members on the concluding day, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu hoped that the initiative will re-endorse the centrality of development in WTO negotiations and provide suggestions for reforms.

He said the principles of non-discrimination, transparency, and the tradition of decision-making by consensus in the WTO are "too valuable to lose".

There are 7.3 billion people living in developing countries and they cannot and should not be deprived of the benefits of growth and WTO is an institution, which addresses these concerns of development and growth of countries through trade and not aid, the minister added.

"The efforts of the New Delhi ministerial meeting will definitely lead to a WTO which is better than what it is today," Prabhu said.

In his address last night, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said the dispute settlement crisis is a "deep crisis" and all countries have to look for a resolution.

The US has stalled appointments of members in the appellate body of WTO's dispute settlement system. The delay in the appointment would hamper the functioning of the system, which is fundamental for fair global trade as it provides security and predictability to the multilateral trading system.

He also said that plurilaterals (an agreement between few member countries of the WTO) should not be seen as a division between developed and developing nations as they contain members from both the sides.

On the issue of S&DT, he said the special and differential treatment mechanism must be innovative in order to address the impasse.

"If left unaddressed, it may go either way. The ideal way is to have a bench mark because the differentiation is already happening and is essential for small developing countries," he said, adding the best way forward is to have a trade-facilitation-agreement-type model where countries may set their own benchmarks.