U.S. says WTO losing focus because it is litigation-centered

Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin

Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin

India today expressed "deep disappointment" over the decision of a "major member country" to renege on its commitment for a permanent solution to the public food stockholding issue at the ongoing ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Without naming the U.S., an official statement said, "India is surprised and deeply disappointed that despite an overwhelming majority of members reiterating it, a major member country has reneged on a commitment made two years ago to deliver a solution of critical importance for addressing hunger in some of the poorest countries of the world".

The four-day ministerial conference which began on Sunday ends on Wednesday leaving ministers little time to thrash out the contentious issues. The MC, chaired by Argentinan Minister Susana Malcorra, is the highest decision-making body of the WTO.

Under the Peace Clause, WTO members agreed to refrain from challenging any breach in prescribe ceiling by a developing nation at the dispute settlement forum of the WTO.

Activists hold a banner during a protest against the 11th World Trade Organization's ministerial conference inside the hotel where the conference is held in Buenos Aires, Argentina December 12, 2017.

Later in a meeting facilitated by chair of MC11 Susana Malcorra, Indian trade minister Suresh Prabhu met USA trade representative Robert Lighthizer. This clause will be there till a permanent solution is found to the food stockpiling issue.

The discourse should be on development at the WTO and not to be deflected based on aggregate GDP figures, the Minister said, adding "while in India we are proud of our GDP and growth rates of recent years, propelled by innovative economic policies of my government, we can not ignore that India is home to more than 600 million poor people".

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While officials said that India will work towards a successful outcome, they added that WTO's failure to find a permanent solution will not impact the food procurement programme.

"This is a matter of survival for eight hundred million hungry and undernourished people in the world".

"Therefore, we are legitimate demandeurs for special and differential treatment for developing countries". We now have a clear path within the WTO to maximise the development potential of e-commerce. "We cannot sustain a situation in which new rules can only apply to a few and that others will be given a pass in the name of self-proclaimed development status", Lighthizer told the conference's opening session. He did not specifically mention India, China or any of the emerging nations.

Trump has indicated his preference for bilateral deals over the multilateral system embodied by the WTO.

Prabhu retorted by emphasising that special and differential treatment "is an important component of the WTO.You can not ignore realities that certain societies have been left behind in the process of development".

Countries claiming development status at the WTO are given concessions, including longer transitions periods, before being required to fully implement agreements.

Too many countries were not following WTO rules, he complained, and too many wealthier members had been given unfair exemptions as developing countries.

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"Minister @sureshpprabhu deserves gratitude for indicating at #BuenosAires #WTO that there's no compromise on #foodsecurity".

"We firmly believe that with the right global policies in place there is an opportunity to unleash a new era of inclusive trade... one in which all companies-regardless of size, sector or location-can benefit from equal access to the global trading system".

He said that in 1992 itself, he had suggested there should be a livelihood and food security box which recognises that agriculture in many developing countries including India is not a commercial enterprise but the backbone of livelihood security of a large population.

The European Union said this year's MC has delivered "little sense of concrete progress". "And there are growing calls for conducting business outside the multilateral setting".

"Let us join hands and take real action to uphold the authority and efficacy of the WTO", Zhong said.

What about the other issues at MC11?

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