India-WTO Current Affairs - 2019

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India to host WTO Ministerial Meeting of Developing Countries

India will be hosting a World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial meeting of developing countries in New Delhi on 13-14 May 2019. The aim is to discuss various challenges being faced by multilateral rules-based-trading system.

Key Highlights of Meeting

  • Participants: includes
  1. Six Least Developed Countries (LDC), namely Benin, Bangladesh, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Uganda, Malawi.
  2. Sixteen developing countries, namely Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Guyana, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Guatemala, Nigeria, Oman, China, Saudi Arabia, Barbados.
  3. Director-General (DG) of World Trade Organization (WTO), Roberto Azevêdo.
  • The two-day meeting will be an interaction between participants in order to provide an opportunity to Ministers to discuss various issues and the way forward.
  • Purpose: The meeting is an effort to bring developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) together on one platform and to share common concerns on various issues affecting WTO and also working together in addressing these issues.
  • Significance: The meeting is being held at a time when multilateral rules-based-trading system is facing serious challenges. In recent times, there has been an increase in unilateral measures and counter measures by member nations, further leading to deadlock in key areas of negotiations and stand-off in Appellate Body. This is threatening the very existence of Dispute Settlement Mechanism of WTO and impacting WTOs position as an effective multilateral organisation. This current scenario has given rise to demands from various quarters to reform the WTO.
  • Importance: Meeting will provide an opportunity to LDCs and developing countries to build consensus on how to move forward on WTO reforms, at the same time preserving fundamentals of multilateral trading system (MTS) enshrined in WTO.
  • The key discussions will also be about at getting a direction on how to constructively engage on various issues (both institutional and negotiating) in WTO, in the upcoming WTO’s Twelfth Ministerial Conference which will be held in Kazakhstan in June 2020.

About Least developed countries (LDCs)

  • They are low-income countries facing severe structural limitation to sustainable development. LDCs have low levels of human assets and are also, extremely vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks.
  • Currently there are 47 countries designated as LDCs by United Nations (UN). The LDC status is reviewed every three years by Committee for Development (CDP).
  • CDP uses three criteria to identify LDCs –
    1. Gross National Income (GNI) per capita
    2. Human Assets Index (HAI)
    3. Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI)

Month: Categories: International

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India opposes Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade

119 of 164 members of World Trade Organisation (WTO) have backed Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade at 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade is non-binding declaration that sought women’s economic empowerment by speedily removing barriers to their participation in trade. ‎India voted against declaration.

Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade

The declaration provides framework for members of trade body to adopt “gender-responsive” trade policies. Under it, ‎WTO will further identify of barriers that limit women’s participation in trade, financial inclusion as well as access to trade financing. It also calls for enhancement of women entrepreneurs’ participation in public procurement markets, and the inclusion of women-led businesses, in particular MSMEs, in value chains.

The declaration will also lead to inclusion of ‘gender equality’ in services trade negotiations agenda under Domestic Regulation discipline (one of major areas of services negotiations under GATS). Moreover, actions outlined in Declaration will provide more and better paid jobs for women.

India opposition

India held that it strongly supports gender equality and is very much in favour of promoting gender issues but it cannot concur with view that gender is trade-related issue. ‎WTO is purely trade-related body and not a forum to discuss gender, so gender-related discussions should take place at appropriate fora.

It also held that developed countries have high standard in gender-related policies as compared to developing or least developed countries (LDC). ‎Hence the proposition to link gender and trade agreed then developed nations will curb exports from developing world using ‘gender’ issues as non-trade barrier.

Moreover, it will also indirectly restrict developing countries from incentivising their women citizens as part of measures to address developmental challenges. It will be used same as ‘Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS)’ measures which is being used by developed nations against LDCs and developing countries. It will also set precedent to bring in other non-trade issues such as environment and labour standards into the WTO’s ambit.

Background

The 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) was held from 10 to 13 December 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. ‎The Ministerial Conference is ighest decision-making body of the WTO and meets at least once every two years. The MC11 ended with number of small ministerial decisions, including Ministerial Decision on Fisheries Subsidies, Work Programme on e-commerce, TRIPS non-violation and situation complaints, Work Programme on Small Economies etc. and creation of working party on accession for South Sudan

Overall, the meeting ended in stalemate, with countries divided along industrial and developing lines. For India it was partial success. India’s push to ensure consensus around a ‘permanent solution’ to the public stockholding of food for food security purposes was thwarted by the US.

Month: Categories: International

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