WTO chief harps on placing new issues on the agenda

WTO

NAIROBI: In a significant development, that may not be totally welcomed by India, the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevedo has asked the members to take up new issues too, apart from discussing the old ones. Kicking off the tenth ministerial conference of the WTO in Nairobi, Mr Azevedo said that negotiations can go ahead if there is a common vision on the exiting issues as well as the new ones. 

The developed countries have been trying to include new issues related to investment, competition, labour, government procurement, environment, climate change and global value chains. India, on the other hand, has opposed this move and asked for a logical conclusion of the Doha round by solving the existing issues.

“Need to regain the habit of negotiating and delivering and that has been missing… Common vision for the future is about not only issues on the table but looking around the world and begin to discuss these things and making the system responsive to needs of members,” Mr Azevedo said while addressing the media after the opening session of the four-day-long ministerial that started on December 15.  Mr Azevedo’s statement echoes the draft ministerial text of the conference that was silent on special safeguards mechanism and a permanent solution for the food security concerns of developing countries. Both these things are high on India’s priority. “There are important issues still on the table which will support growth and development, and decisions which will determine the forward path of global trade negotiations,” Mr Azevedo said during the conference. 

Kenya’s Trade Minsiter Amina Mohamed  had similar views even though she said it is time for the multilateral system to work so that the negotiating function remains alive. Categorically stating that a decision has to be taken on how the WTO goes forward, Ms Mohammed said: “Do we talk of all issues on table or issues after TFA (Trade Facilitation Agreement) in Doha Development Agenda or we add new issues that will take us to the next level of the organization in the multilateral trading function? It’s taking a tremendous amount of resources on it.”
Emphasising that it is time for the system to pay back by ensuring that the negotiating function remains alive, Ms Mohammed stated that the “TFA has been ratified by 51 countries. Why is it difficult to get another 51 countries to get past the halfway mark,” she added. India is yet to ratify the pact.

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