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NEW DELHI : India has strongly opposed a proposal from developed countries for administrative actions and penalties in case of delayed submissions of notifications by member countries. It is wrong to assume wilful default on the part of members rather than acknowledging the capacity constraints and other legitimate difficulties faced by many developing countries, India said.

Developed countries, including the US, European Union, UK, Australia, and Canada, have moved a draft general council proposal on procedures to improve compliance with notification requirements under World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements that requires a country that fails to submit notifications by the deadline to explain the delay every six months.

Under phase 1 of the proposed administrative measures, beginning 2025 or 2026, a member country that fails to submit notifications shall be designated as “WTO member with notification delay" and shall be identified as such when offered the floor in the General Council; it shall be called upon to speak in WTO formal meetings after all other WTO members have taken the floor.

Under phase 2 of the proposal, if a member has been subject to Phase 1 measures for one year, then other members are free not to respond to its queries posed during trade policy reviews and shall not have its representatives nominated to preside over WTO bodies.

India has faced several complaints by developed countries regarding its delayed submission of agricultural subsidy notifications or non-submission of subsidy notifications, such as sugar export subsidies.

Earlier this month, during a discussion on the matter at the General Council meeting, India said it gets the feeling that transparency is solely viewed as fulfilling notification obligations of developing countries, including least-developed countries. In contrast, transparency is infused across the functions of the WTO, from the conduct of its day-to-day functioning, and how these functions are communicated to the outside world. Giving several examples, India said the final bound AMS (Aggregate Measurement of Support) commitments, which were supposed to be provided within 120 days of the year by some members, have not been provided for more than two years.

It also pointed out developed countries’ weak notification track record in notification commitments under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Under the TRIPS Agreement, developed countries have a positive legal obligation to provide incentives to enterprises and institutions in their territories to promote enhanced technology transfer to least developed countries. “TRIPS Council has put in place a monitoring mechanism. However, this mechanism does not evaluate whether developed countries are compliant with their notification obligation under Article 66.2. Therefore, more transparency in this area would be supportive of least developed countries, efforts to build a viable technological base," India said.

India said it is hard to agree to any proposal that provides for administrative actions and penalties in case of delayed submissions of notifications and assumes wilful default on the part of members rather than taking cognizance of the capacity constraints and other legitimate difficulties faced by a large number of developing countries. “Another way of addressing this issue is to encourage members who update their notifications, despite constraints and to assist those who have not been able to do so, because of various reasons, including limited capacities, and certainly with this example, we can understand that developed countries are not able to fulfil their thing, not because of existing capacities. So, we look forward to a comprehensive engagement on this issue," India added.

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