India, BRICS nations oppose US move to paralyse WTO

India, BRICS nations oppose US move to paralyse WTO

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the other BRICS leaders on the sidelines of G-20 summit, in Buenos Aires. PTI Photo 

India on Friday joined China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa to oppose United States' move to paralyse the dispute settlement mechanism of the World Trade Organization.

“The dispute settlement mechanism of the WTO is essential for its proper functioning. Its effective functioning will give members the required confidence to engage in future negotiating in the WTO,” the leaders of the BRICS – a bloc comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – said in a statement in Buenos Aires on Friday.

The BRICS leaders – Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Xi Jinping of China, President Michel Temer of Brazil and President Cyril Ramaphosa – met shortly before the G20 summit commenced in the capital of Argentina on Friday. With the US-China trade war casting a shadow over the summit, the leaders reaffirmed “full support for the rules-based multilateral trading system, as embodied in the WTO, to ensure transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive international trade”.

The US has of late been accusing the WTO of treating it unfairly. It also threatened to withdraw the US from the organization, which was established to set rules for international trade and resolve commercial disputes among the countries. President Donald Trump's administration has also been blocking new appointments to the WTO Appellate Body, thus putting in jeopardy the dispute settlement mechanism of the organization.

The BRICS leaders stressed that the selection process for appointment to the WTO Appellate Body should be initiated “immediately”, as an “essential prerequisite for the stable and effective functioning of the WTO dispute settlement system”.

The leaders of the five developing nations stated that they were ready “to engage in frank and result-oriented discussions with other WTO members with a view to improving the functioning of the WTO”. “The spirit and rules of the WTO run counter to unilateral and protectionist measures. We call on all members to oppose such WTO inconsistent measures, stand by their commitments undertaken in the WTO and roll back such measures of a discriminatory and restrictive nature,” the BRICS leaders said on Friday, sending out a tacit, but firm message to Trump Administration, which is being criticized for discarding multilateralism and adopting unilateral and protectionist trade policies.

Modi, Putin, Xi, Ramaphosa and Temer, however, made it clear that they were open to extending support to any attempt to reform the WTO and other multilateral institutions and make them more relevant.

“We support work towards improvement of the WTO with the view to enhance its relevance and effectiveness to address current and future challenges,” they said, adding: “In this work, the core value and fundamental principles of the WTO should be preserved and interests of all WTO members should be reflected, in particular those of the developing members.”

Earlier, speaking at the BRICS meeting, Modi reaffirmed New Delhi's continued commitment to globalization and multilateralism. He said that multilateralism and rule-based world order were facing challenges with the rise of protectionism. “Globalization lifted millions out of poverty, but it is a challenge for us to ensure equal distribution of its benefit,” said Prime Minister. “Currency devaluation and the rising oil prices put at risk the benefits of globalization and rules-based world-order accrued over the past few years.”

He also called for making the architecture of global economic governance more representative and democratic.