Ministry of Commerce & Industry
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India opposes fragmentation of multilateral trading system and inclusion of non-trade topics at WTO MC13

India pushes for WTO backing for developing nations to overcome industrialization-era constraints

Posted On: 26 FEB 2024 8:35PM by PIB Delhi

The thirteenth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) began in Abu Dhabi on 26 February. On the opening day, the Indian delegation was led by Commerce Secretary Shri Sunil Barthwal.

Two countries – Comoros and Timor Leste acceded to the WTO on the opening day. India had been supporting these accessions and welcomed the expansion of the organization. 

The WTO will be completing 30 years of its establishment next year. Two ministerial discussion sessions were organized on the opening day allowing ministers to exchange views on the future direction the organization should take.

In the session on sustainable development and policy space for industrialization, India highlighted the need for avoiding fragmentation of the multilateral trading system and the importance of remaining focused rather than mix non-trade issues with the WTO agenda.

India explained that it has put forward and propagated a sustainable way of living based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation including through a mass movement for LiFE- “Life Style for Environment” as a key to combating climate change. It also expressed serious concerns regarding the increasing use of trade protectionist unilateral measures, which are sought to be justified in the guise of environmental protection.

India asserted that the developing countries seek appropriate policy space to find solutions to their concerns, some of which have been unaddressed for a long time. India said that it was of the firm view that developing countries require flexibility in the existing WTO agreements to overcome the constraints faced by them in their industrialization. India expressed concerns on the concerted attempt to club long standing development issues like policy space for industrial development with the new issues of “Trade and Industrial policy”.

In the second session on Trade and Inclusion, India cautioned members that mixing non-trade topics with WTO rules can lead to greater trade fragmentation. Bringing issues like Gender and MSMEs in the realm of WTO discussions was not practical because these issues were being discussed in other relevant international organizations already.

India stressed that issues like inclusion are better addressed through contextual and targeted national measure and they did not fall in the domain of international trade relations. India stressed that non-trade issues have the potential to encourage trade distortive subsidies and non-trade barriers. He expressed concerns about such measures and their negative spillover effect on the trade interests of developing countries.

India recounted several measures undertaken by the government for greater inclusion of MSMEs and women, especially through use of Digital Public Infrastructure. It explained how the government’s focus was bringing about economic transformation for these segments of the economy.

India assured its unwavering commitment to multilateralism and the importance of adhering to the rules-based global trading system.

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