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Inaugural Session of WTO Ministerial Meeting begins in New Delhi

The two-day meeting is being held at a time when the multilateral rule-based-trading system is facing serious and grave challenges. The meeting will provide an opportunity for the Ministers to discuss various issues and the way forward.

On the first day today, a meeting of senior officers of the participating countries is being held. The Ministerial Meeting will be held on Tuesday.

16 developing countries and 6 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are participating in the meeting. It includes China, South Africa, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Bangladesh

In two-day meeting following issues are likely to be discussed:

· Finding a solution to the ongoing impasse in the Appellate Body on an urgent basis.

· Issues of importance and priority for developing countries including LDCs in the reform agenda.

· How to reinvigorate negotiating agenda on issues of critical importance for developing countries?

· How to ensure effective S&D for all developing countries including LDCs?

Speaking at the inaugural session, Commerce Secretary said that the logjam in the Appellate Body is a serious threat to the dispute settlement mechanism of the WTO and the implementation function of the Organization.

The fundamentals of the system are being tested through a tide of protectionism around the world vitiating the global economic environment. The situation does not bode well for developing countries, including the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

The situation in the WTO has spurred a strong discourse for reforming the WTO, which unfortunately is characterised by a complete lack of balance. 

The reform agenda being promoted does not address the concerns of the developing countries. The discussions in the meeting being held in New Delhi give a chance to reaffirm the resolve to keep development at the centre of the reform agenda. 

The reform initiatives must promote inclusiveness and non-discrimination, build trust and address the inequalities and glaring asymmetries in existing agreements. These asymmetries are against the interest of developing countries including LDCs. There is a need to work together to put issues of importance for developing countries and their priorities in the reform agenda.

There has been no active engagement or movement on key issues of concerns for developing countries including LDCs in the negotiating agenda. Agriculture remains a key priority for a large membership of WTO representing the developing world. However, there is a strong push to completely relegate existing mandates and decisions and work done for the past many years, to the background.

Discipline on fisheries subsidies are currently under negotiation at the WTO with intense engagement to understand the issues and work out a meaningful agreement by December 2019.

India believes that developing countries need to work together to protect their interests in the WTO negotiations through preservation of the core fundamental principles of the WTO. The two-day meet gives an opportunity to the participating countries of developing a shared WTO reform proposal on issues of priority and interest for developing countries.

This will help in building a common narrative on issues of importance for Developing Countries including LDCs.

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