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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  India flays US at WTO for escalating trade tensions
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India flays US at WTO for escalating trade tensions

New Delhi protests unilateral trade measures applied on steel, aluminium products

Indian ambassador J.S. Deepak urged the US, European Union, and other industrialized countries to ‘address entry-related measures for movement of professionals’. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/MintPremium
Indian ambassador J.S. Deepak urged the US, European Union, and other industrialized countries to ‘address entry-related measures for movement of professionals’. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Geneva: India, along with several other countries, has severely criticised the US at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for escalating trade tensions in the multilateral trading system by slapping unilateral trade measures, according to people familiar with the development.

Without naming the US, India on 7 May said it is deeply concerned “on the unilateral trade policy measures applied on steel and aluminium products by one member." “Such unilateral measures, on the grounds of security exceptions, are an open and blatant abuse of the WTO provisions," ambassador J.S. Deepak told an informal Doha trade negotiations committee meeting.

In a hard-hitting intervention on a range of disturbing developments at the WTO and outside, Deepak warned the WTO secretariat not to promote “divisive" plurilateral initiatives while ignoring the core multilateral work on the permanent solution for public stockholding programmes for food security and other unresolved issues.

The Indian envoy, who was supported by South Africa and several African and South American countries, said “the primary role of the WTO secretariat is to support and strengthen the multilateral track." He urged “the secretariat to accord priority to the work of the regular bodies and negotiating groups over the joint statement groups (for controversial plurilateral initiatives of more than two are three members on old issues like electronic commerce and new issues such as investment facilitation) which are only informal grouping (without any multilateral mandate)."

Deepak said the WTO secretariat must update the Mode 4 submissions about the movement of short-term services providers.

India urged the US, the European Union, and other industrialized countries to “address entry related measures for movement of professionals."

“Questions have indeed been raised about the role of the secretariat in these (controversial plurilateral processes)," said ambassador Xavier Carim of South Africa. “To be fully transparent and to ensure impartiality on what is a divisive issue, we would welcome a focused discussion on the extent of the secretariat’s support in these processes under the joint statements," Carim maintained.

India said it will not accept attempts to hijack negotiations from unresolved Doha issues such as trade-distorting farm subsidies and the permanent solution for public stockholding programmes for food programmes.

The WTO must fulfil UN Sustainable Development Goals one and two to wipe out hunger and malnourishment across the globe, he said.

New Delhi decried attempts to deny special and differential flexibilities for developing countries as demanded by some members like the US.

“On the critical issue of trade and development, we are of the firm view that the special and differential treatment provisions for all developing countries and LDCs (least-developed countries) are an integral part of the WTO agreement and this principle would need to be protected in all future agreements as well," said Deepak.

Several industrialised countries, especially the US, are mounting a frontal attack for discontinuing special and differential flexibilities for China, India, Brazil, and South Africa among others.

“Special and differential treatment provisions are written in black and white in the WTO rulebook," said China’s trade envoy, ambassador Xiangchen Zhang, suggesting they are not so-called “perks or advantages" but rather are the limited tools to fill the capacity gap and necessary means for developing countries to exercise the right to develop the economy.

The new US trade envoy, ambassador Dennis Shea, told the meeting that “we have unfortunately allowed some clumsy and blunt structures, notably self-designation of development status and an apparent inability to distinguish among different kinds of developing countries, to get in the way of our collective progress."

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Published: 08 May 2018, 11:41 PM IST
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