India made a strong pitch for protecting the interests of the developing and under-developed countries at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal on Monday did some plain speaking at the 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Geneva. He raised concerns about the “skewed” WTO reforms proposal, the imperative need to retain the Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) provisions for the developing world, global inequities in COVID vaccination and Public Stockholding of food grains, read Ministry of Commerce & Industry press statement.
“Current proposals for WTO Reform could fundamentally change its institutional architecture, skewing the system against the interests of developing countries,” said Goyal.
“We need to move ahead preserving the core principles of consensus and ensuring S&DT, with people and development being at the core of WTO’s future agenda,” he added.
“Friends, those who question the need for S&DT provisions are aware that the per capita GDP of the developed countries is 20 to 50 times that of the developing countries. Even India is at the lower end of the per capita GDP supporting 1.4 billion people. I believe the developing world aspires to work for a better future. Is it humane, fair or even equitable that the developing world takes the same obligations as the developed nations?” he added.
He also highlighted the COVID-19 pandemic that exposed the inability of the world to promptly respond to any crisis, whether on food security or health, economic well-being or open supply chains.
“When the world was desperately looking for relief, the WTO was found wanting. As an example, vaccine inequity persists even two years after COVID. When people in LDCs and several developing countries are yet to be vaccinated, there are some countries who have already administered the 3rd or 4th dose,” he said, adding, “This is a collective failure of global governance and we need to introspect. Those responsible need to seriously reflect deep within their hearts, it will help us craft a more equitable, fair and prosperous future for every citizen of the world and finally achieve the Sustainable Development Goals we had all collectively agreed upon,” said the release.
To rebuild trust and credibility, Goyal said, we must first address mandated issues, like the permanent solution to public stockholding agreed nearly a decade ago, the release added.
“The current global food crisis is a reminder to us that we act now! Can we risk the lives of millions of people dependent on food stocks maintained for the poor and vulnerable?” asked Goyal. “During the pandemic, India alone distributed 100 million tonnes of food grain-free of charge to 800 million Indians at a cost of nearly USD 50 billion. This was over and above the food grain distributed as a part of our National Food Security Programme thus ensuring that nobody ever slept hungry,” he said.
Goyal argued that while negotiating the fisheries subsidies, the livelihood of traditional fishermen cannot be compromised, said the release.
“We cannot institutionalize the privileges of a few countries and take away the right to progress for those who are working for the vulnerable marginalized sections of society. Particularly for those countries, that are not engaged in harmful deep sea fishing, we need to have different views. Otherwise, we may have a similar situation like the Agreement on Agriculture, where inequities & asymmetries persist, causing several countries to still depend on food aid,” he said.