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    Strong Indian Pitch at WTO to Protect Interests of Developing and Under-Developed Countries

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    Strong Indian Pitch at WTO to Protect Interests of Developing and Under-Developed Countries

    India raised concerns about the “skewed” WTO reforms proposal and spoke of the need to retain the S&DT provisions for the developing world, global inequities in COVID-19 vaccination and Public Stockholding of food grains.

    India on Sunday made a strong pitch for protecting the interests of the developing and under-developed countries at the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva. Piyush Goyal, India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles raised concerns about the “skewed” WTO reforms proposal.

    He stressed on the imperative need to retain the Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) provisions for the developing world, global inequities in COVID-19 vaccination and public stockholding of food-grains.

    Speaking on the ‘Challenges confronting the Ministerial Session’, the Indian minister said the current proposals for WTO Reform could fundamentally change its institutional architecture, skewing the system against the interests of developing countries.

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    “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 said.

    “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,” he said, arguing that 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 questioned.

    Vaccine inequity

    Goyal said the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the inability of the world to promptly respond to any crisis, whether on food security or health, economic well-being or the 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,” he said, referring to people in the least developed countries and also several developing countries still unable to get vaccinated while other countries have already administered the third or even fourth dose.

    “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.”

    The minister urged prioritising addressing mandated issues like the Permanent Solution to Public Stockholding agreed nearly a decade ago to rebuild trust and credibility.

    Hunger

    “The current global food crisis is a reminder to us that we act now”, he said, questioning, “Can we risk the lives of millions of people dependent on food stocks maintained for the poor and vulnerable?”.

    “During the pandemic, India alone distributed 100 million tonnes of food-grain free of charge to 800 million Indians at a cost of nearly US$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.

    “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 countries 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 and asymmetries persist, causing several countries to still depend on food aid,” he said.

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