Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Informal meeting useful to carry forward WTO mandate: Azevedo

Representatives from 50 countries will be gathering in New Delhi on 19-20 March for an informal World Trade Organization ministerial meeting Informal meeting useful to carry forward WTO mandate: Azevedo
Samantha Long | 21 March, 2018, 03:41

India will bilaterally discuss import curbs on steel with the United States, trade minister Suresh Prabhu said on Tuesday, amid growing concerns of an escalating trade war over tariffs.

Expressing concerns over rising protectionism in developed countries, especially in the U.S. which has imposed high import duties on steel and aluminium, WTO (World Trade Organization) Director General Roberto Azevedo on Monday called upon the member nations to come together and resolve the issues related to global trade.

Although the meeting does not have a fixed agenda, it assumes significance against the backdrop of the increase in duties on steel and aluminium by the U.S., and Washington dragging India to the WTO against its export incentive programmes. A negotiator said duty hike was the second-most discussed issue at the meeting, but it was clearly the flavour of the season.

WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said although there is a concern on unilateral decisions by some countries and their potential escalation, members are committed to actively engage to find solutions.

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The rich nations are forming groupings to prepare ground for pushing new issues such as investment facilitation, preparing rules for e-commerce, promoting gender equality and reducing subsidy on fisheries.

"S&DT for developing countries is a fundamental part of the WTO mandate". All heads of delegations appreciated the Commerce & Industry Minister's initiative in calling this meeting and providing political guidance for the work in the WTO.Informal discussions will continue through out the day and the delegates will explore in detail the option for reinvigorating the WTO.

"Members said they all want reforms, but we don't know what that is and what kind of outcome that kind of conversation is going to have". "That is something we heard today", said Mr Azevedo. "I have said very publicly, that I am very concerned and I think the institution itself could say the same, because these measures, for whatever reason, have a very major potential for escalation because of the possibility of responses from other partners with trade restrictive measures as well and that, I think, is something we should avoid", Azevedo said.

Concluding the conference, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu said nearly all members underlined the need to "preserve and enhance" the functioning and credibility of the rule-based multilateral trading system.

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