New Delhi: The WTO Ministerial Meeting of Developing Countries concluded in New Delhi today. The Ministerial Meeting began last evening with a dinner hosted by the Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhu. The Director General of WTO, Roberto Azevedo, was also present during the dinner.
In his address at the dinner, Suresh Prabhu, said that the New Delhi Meeting is taking 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.
Commerce Minister added 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 will explore how to collectively address the challenges emerging from suggestions on WTO reform.
In his address at the dinner last night, DG, WTO, Roberto Azevedo, said that the reform process will 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. DG, WTO suggested for working in the existing system.
He further said 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.
Roberto Azevedo said 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, today morning, Suresh Prabhu said 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. The Commerce Minister added that he is certain that the efforts of the New Delhi Ministerial Meeting will 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.
Commerce Minister hoped that the New Delhi Ministerial Meeting will re-endorse the centrality of development in WTO negotiations and provide suggestions for WTO reforms with development at its core.
- We, the Ministers and high-level officials from Arab Republic of Egypt, Barbados, Central African Republic, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Jamaica, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, People’s Republic of China, Republic of Benin, Republic of Chad, Republic of India, Republic of Indonesia, Republic of Malawi, Republic of South Africa, Republic of Uganda and Sultanate of Oman met in New Delhi, on 13 and 14 May 2019, to discuss recent developments at the WTO and explore ways for working with all Members to strengthen the multilateral trading system.
- We reaffirm the pre-eminence of the WTO as the 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.
- We re-affirm 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, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- We recall 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 LDC issues.
- We stress the importance of technical assistance and capacity building provided to developing Members, in particular LDCs, including through the Enhanced Integrated Framework, Aid for Trade and other tools. We urge Members to continue doing so.
- The process of WTO reform must keep development at its core, promote inclusive growth, and fully take into account the interests and concerns of developing Members, including the specific challenges of graduating LDCs. The way forward must be decided through a process that is open, transparent and inclusive. We agree to work collectively with the aim to develop proposals to ensure that our common interests are reflected in the WTO reform process.
- WTO rules seek to foster an open and non-discriminatory trade regime. In order to instill confidence among the Members, it is imperative that the Ministerial Conferences of the WTO are organized in a more open, transparent and inclusive manner. WTO notification obligations must consider the capacity constraints and implementation related challenges faced by many developing Members, particularly LDCs. In the WTO, a more cooperative and gradual approach is the best way in dealing with the issue of transparency, where many developing Members struggle to comply with their notification obligations.
- Some WTO agreements, for example the Agreement on Agriculture, contain imbalances and inequities that prejudice the trade and development interests of developing Members. There is a need to provide adequate policy space to the developing Members to support their farmers through correcting the asymmetries and imbalances in this Agreement on priority. This should be undertaken on the basis of work done and progress already made in the past, and provide further flexibilities to the LDCs and Net Food Importing Developing Countries. It is really time that cotton receives concrete and appropriate responses it deserves.
- We agree to consult on various issues of common interest to developing Members, including comprehensive and effective disciplines on fisheries subsidies with appropriate and effective Special & Differential Treatment provisions for developing Members.
- We urge WTO Members to expedite the process of accession of new Members.
- We reiterate our commitment to work towards strengthening WTO by promoting development and inclusivity for the benefit of all Members.