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Hope that countries will come to WTO meet with positive attitude like India: Piyush Goyal

The Commerce and Industry Minister also said that though the World Trade Organisation has played an important role in setting robust rules for global trade, there are significant problems in the organisation.
Last Updated 23 February 2024, 10:13 IST

New Delhi: India on Friday expressed hope that other countries will come to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meet in Abu Dhabi with a positive attitude and listen to the concerns of developing nations for providing free and fair solutions to their problems.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal also said that though the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has played an important role in setting robust rules for global trade, there are significant problems in the organisation.

Trade ministers of 164 countries will gather in Abu Dhabi, UAE from February 26 to discuss a range of issues pertaining to areas such as agriculture, fisheries subsidies, and a moratorium on imposing customs duty on e-commerce trade.

"I do hope that other countries will also come to the table with a positive attitude as does India...(I do hope that) other countries are also willing to listen to us and other less developed and developing countries' concerns and give free and fair solutions to the problems," Goyal said at the Raisina Dialogue.

He added that with all its problems, difficulties, short-comings, and fault-lines, the Geneva-based multi-lateral body has played an important role in setting robust rules of business, and fair play among trading nations.

It also provides a platform, where all the member countries hold dialogue or debate on different trade-related issues and come up with solutions.

However, 'there are significant problems, there are concerns about how it will operate, there is an attempt to even introduce elements into the WTO which are certainly not a part of world trade as such.

"So, India is very much engaged with all the partner countries bilaterally, in smaller groups and at the larger forums (also) to ensure that the guiding principles on which the WTO was formed are respected and maintained and continue to help us to have a free and fair trade across the world," he added.

Developed nations are pushing to start talks on new issues like trade and environment, labour, and MSME in the WTO. Developing countries like India are open as there are other forums to discuss these issues, which are not related to trade.

The minister called for concluding issues which are finalised.

"The dispute resolution mechanism, WTO reforms, and several issues that are being finalised over the years need to be brought to conclusion. So, there is a very heavy agenda," he said.

Besides monitoring global exports and imports, the Geneva-based 164-member multi-lateral body adjudicates trade disputes among the member countries.

The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) is one of the important arms of the WTO.

There are two main ways to settle a dispute once a complaint has been filed in the WTO. The countries find a mutually agreed solution, particularly during the phase of bilateral consultations; and through adjudication, which includes ruling by a panel and if not satisfied, challenging that ruling at the appellate body.

The appellate body is the apex institution for adjudicating disputes.

The smooth functioning of the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism hit a roadblock when the US blocked appointments of members in the appellate body (AB). Though the AB stopped functioning on December 10, 2019, the panels are still working.

Since December 2019, over 20 appeals have been filed in the AB. According to experts, the US wants to weaken the two-tier system of the dispute settlement mechanism and they do not intend to restore the appellate body.

Developing countries, on the other hand, are of the strong view that a two-tier system is fundamental for the smooth functioning of the dispute settlement mechanism. Certain developed nations have suggested reforming DSB and that includes finding appropriate alternatives to litigation.

The alternatives include conciliation and mediation; the panels be restricted to address only those matters, which are necessary to resolve the dispute and resist the urge to pontificate; and no judicial overreach so that members could exercise their power to regulate domestic policies.

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(Published 23 February 2024, 10:13 IST)

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