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WTO chief moots for trade facilitation agreement model for dispute resolution

Published: May 14, 2019

By TIOLCORPLAWS News Service

NEW DELHI, MAY 14, 2019: THE WTO Ministerial Meeting of Developing Countries concluded here today. Addressing the gathering, the Union Minister for Commerce & Industry, Mr Suresh Prabhu, stated that that the New Delhi Meeting took place at a time when trade tensions show no signs of abating and protectionist tendencies are on the rise which makes it very essential to collectively debate and discuss the way forward in a multilateral framework. The meet also saw the attendance of WTO Director General, Mr Roberto Azevedo.

Mr Prabhu further mentioned that the New Delhi Ministerial Meeting is an initiative by India to facilitate a free and frank exchange of views on all issues of common interest, particularly of the Developing Countries and would explore how to collectively address the challenges emerging from suggestions on WTO reform. In his address at the dinner meeting held yesterday, Mr Azevedo stated that the reform process would mitigate the current crisis at WTO and talk about destroying the existing system is not the correct way and may not have the desired outcome. Thus he suggested to work in the existing system. He also mentioned that the Dispute Settlement crisis is a deep crisis and all countries have to look for a resolution. Business as usual approach is not an option anymore and all members should work for a solution.

Mr Azevedo stated that plurilaterals should not be seen as a division between Developed and Developing Countries as they contain members from both sides. He further said that the Special and Differential Treatment Mechanism must be innovative in order to address the impasse. If left unaddressed it may go either way, he said. The ideal way is to have a bench mark because the differentiation is already happening and is essential for small Developing Countries. DG, WTO further added that the best way forward is to have a trade-facilitation-agreement-type model where countries may set their own benchmarks.

In the inaugural session of the Ministerial Meeting, Mr Prabhu stated that 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. Mr Prabhu claimed to be certain that the efforts of the New Delhi Ministerial Meeting would definitely lead to a WTO which is better than what it is today.

The Multilateral Trading System is the collective responsibility of all countries who have a stake in it.  It is the duty of countries to successfully address conflicting interests, motives and ideologies, in order to preserve and strengthen this valuable institution, the Minister added. The principles of non-discrimination, predictability, transparency, the tradition of decision-making by consensus and, most importantly, the commitment to development, underlying the multilateral trading system, are too valuable to lose, he said.

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. A year ago, on 19-20 March 2018, India had organised an Informal WTO Ministerial Gathering, in which more than 50 Members – both developed and developing- had participated. In the March 2018 Gathering in New Delhi it was emphasized that there is a need to preserve and enhance the functioning and credibility of the rules-based Multilateral Trading System as embodied in the WTO. Mr Prabhu expressed hope that the New Delhi Ministerial Meeting would re-endorse the centrality of development in WTO negotiations and provide suggestions for WTO reforms with development at its core.

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