Commerce secretary-level officials from all 164 WTO member countries will meet in Geneva on October 23-24 to discuss issues that could be discussed at the ministerial conference in February next year, a government official said. The Indian side will be represented by Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal and Additional Secretary in the ministry Piyush Kumar.
The issues India is expected to raise include fisheries subsidy agreement, reform of WTO’s dispute settlement body, curbs on e-commerce, matters related to agriculture, the official said. “The sub-ministerials are meeting in Geneva on October 23-24 for a change, this time ahead of the ministerial conference to be held in Abu Dhabi in February 2024. Secretary-level officials from all 164 member states will be present for the discussions.
The Ministerial Conference (MC) is the highest decision-making body of the WTO. The Geneva-based multilateral body deals with global export- and import-related norms and settles trade disputes between members. Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) achieved a ‘Geneva package’ on June 17, 2022, which included agreements on curbing harmful fishing subsidies and temporary patent exemptions for the production of COVID-19 vaccines.
The official said that the fisheries subsidy agreement is limited only to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and a complete agreement will be discussed. In the 2022 MC, it was also agreed to find a final solution to the issue of continuation of moratorium on levy of customs duty on electronic transmission of goods by the next MC.
India strongly opposes the continuation of this embargo as it has an adverse effect on developing countries. New Delhi is expected to again oppose any further expansion in the MC in Abu Dhabi.
In the agriculture sector, India has called for finding a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes. As part of a permanent solution, India has sought revision of the formula for calculating food subsidy limits and inclusion of programs implemented after 2013 under the peace clause.
In addition, India has sought SSM (Special Safeguard Mechanism), which aims to protect poor and marginal farmers from any increase in imports or steep fall in prices. The WTO’s agricultural negotiations cover a variety of topics, including cross-cutting issues of domestic support, market access, export competition, export restrictions, cotton, public stockholding for food security purposes, special safeguard mechanisms and transparency.
The 13th MC will be held in Abu Dhabi, UAE in the week of February 26, 2024.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI,