To energise WTO, India to host informal, ‘representative’ ministerial in early 2018

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By AMITI SEN

Buenos Aires meet was fated to fail, says Suresh Prabhu

India will host a meeting of select trade ministers representing the entire membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) early next year to ensure that the multilateral body does not lose focus and moves forward in the right direction, Commerce & Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu has said.

“It will be a meeting on the lines of a mini-ministerial but more representative. It will be held to ensure that the WTO process goes forward with re-energised focus,” said Prabhu, talking to the media after the conclusion of the WTO Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC 11) in Buenos Aires.

On MC 11’s failure to deliver results, including a permanent solution, the minister said it was clear to India from the very beginning, given the noises that emanated from the WTO headquarters in Geneva prior to the event, that there would be no outcome at the ministerial. “It was very clear at the outset that the US was not willing to engage as it was questioning the entire efficacy of the global trading system,” he said.

India, however, was on a sound wicket this time as it already had a permanent peace clause in place, which guaranteed its food security programme, the minister said. “But that does not mean we should not try to get something better. So we aimed for a permanent solution and tried to make it better than the peace clause. And not just for us. We are fighting for all those countries that are more vulnerable than India. We have taken up their battle on our shoulders,” he said.

The minister pointed out that India had not been blamed for the failure of a ministerial round after a long time and the country had managed to earn the goodwill of a lot of countries. “We had about 20-25 bilateral meetings with many countries and explained our position to them. Most understood that we our protecting our interest without harming anybody else’s,” said Prabhu.

The Buenos Aires meet was all about making strong coalitions — like India’s brotherhood with African countries — and not letting them fall apart, the minister added.

Another key issue to emerge from the ministerial was the clear signal by the WTO that it was not ready to engage on new issues, be it investment facilitation, micro, small and medium enterprises or e-commerce, Prabhu said.

The Buenos Aires meet may have ended, but not the WTO. “The WTO is alive and kicking,” the minister said.

Source: Hindu Business Line

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