Developing nations will be heard: WTO chief

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Developing nations will be heard: WTO chief
© Provided by The Times of India

NEW DELHI: World Trade Organization (WTO) director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Friday said that she was hopeful of a positive outcome at the forthcoming ministerial and assured developing countries, including India, that their voice will be heard.

“I am hopeful of a good outcome and I felt a lot of support from the Indian side,” the WTO chief told reporters after meeting PM Narendra Modi. The PM backed the multilateral regime and sought support to achieve the objectives of India and other developing countries, she said.

During her meetings, the Indian side repeatedly sought a balanced outcome, with special emphasis on resolving the farm-related issues, while ensuring that reforms at the WTO were initiated, something that is expected to be dealt with at next month’s ministerial meeting in Geneva. While India wants the agenda to be limited to issues which have been on the table for over 20 years now, especially agriculture subsidies in the developed countries, there are indications that the WTO membership will push for expanding the mandate of the talks to include “new issues” as well as those that are being discussed among a group of countries and have not been endorsed by all the members.

A wider agenda for the ministerial may include issues such as a package to address addition to an agreement on fisheries, addressing some of the lingering issues in the farm sector, new regulations on services sector (being negotiated by a group of countries), as well as deciding on talks around MSMEs and women and trade, which India is opposed to.

“Fisheries and agriculture have been there for a long time. After 20 years, we should try to resolve them,” Okonjo-Iweala said, adding that India’s concerns on food security were understandable. She also said that it was important to get a permanent solution to the peace clause on public stockholding as the interim relief was limited to countries such as India, and other developing countries also needed a solution.

Under existing rules, there are limits on the amount of grains for the public procurement programme. While India had managed to extract a peace clause which bars other countries from taking up the issue at the WTO, it wants that the issue should be settled once and for all. “I cannot guarantee an outcome but I will ask members to push for it,” the WTO chief said.

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