Prabhu appeals for common ground to strengthen WTO

Commerce minister Sur­e­sh Prabhu on Tuesday app­e­aled to the WTO members to identify common grou­nd for strengthening the multi-lateral trade body amid challenges being fa­ced by it following the dea­dlock at the Buenos Aires ministerial in December.

Delegates from as many as 52 countries, including the US and China, are parti­cipating in the informal me­eting of the WTO called by India amidst increasing protectionism in global trade. India has called this meet to explore options to reinvigorate the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Addressing the representatives, Prabhu said the me­eting is happening at a time when WTO is facing multiple challenges including a deadlock, wh­ich happened at Buenos Aires, Argentina, and systemic issues.

“Most of you present here would agree that the multilateral trading system has contributed significantly to economic gr­owth, internati­onal trade, development and employment. If you value WTO and its contributions, then you should collectively agree to make all efforts to strengthen it. Inaction sh­o­­uld not be choice for any one of us,” he said. There is an urgent need for reflection and political en­gagements on all such matters, which are likely to have implications on the multilateral trading system, he added.

“Our meeting today is an initiative by India to facilitate free and frank exchange of views on all issues of common interest as well as seeki­ng to address the challe­nges,” Pr­abhu said. The objective of this meeting is to reinvigorate  WTO and “we ne­ed to work together for ach­ieving this objective,” he said, adding, “let us find the ways to identify common ground for strengthening the organisation”.

He called upon the participants to focus on issues like providing political guidance to further work in the WTO and the way forward on development.

He said in the absence of guidance at the last ministerial conference, highest decision making body of the WTO, in Argentina, there is a need to provide collective political guidance on aspects such as matters where there are no work programmes.

The meeting comes agai­nst the backdrop of imposition of import duties on steel and aluminium by the US administration, and Washington dragging India to the WTO against export incentive programmes. Although India has invited Pakistan for the meeting, it has decided to skip the conference.

WTO director general Ro­b­erto Azevedo, has said: “We are facing many challenges in the WTO and outside. Trade environment globally is very risky at this point of time.”