Trade Minister Piyush Goyal (Photo: Reuters)
Trade Minister Piyush Goyal (Photo: Reuters)

WTO reform agenda needs to be balanced and inclusive: Piyush Goyal

  • The trade minister made these remarks at an informal ministerial gathering in Davos
  • Goyal said the reform process should not be used to further restrict the flexibilities and policy space required by developing countries to integrate better with the global trading system

The agenda to reform the World Trade Organisation (WTO) needs to be balanced and inclusive to address the historic asymmetries in the Uruguay Round Agreements, India’s trade minister Piyush Goyal said while participating in an informal ministerial gathering in Davos on 24 January.

A statement released by the commerce ministry on Tuesday quoted the minister saying a good starting point for the reform agenda would be removing the imbalances in the agreement on agriculture, and ensuring a level playing field, particularly for developing economies. “As long-standing proponents of WTO reform, developing countries have for almost 20 years sought the elimination of unequal and trade-distorting entitlements in the agreement on agriculture. Another positive step will be to build upon the work of the last several years and to implement existing mandates such as a permanent solution for public stock holding for food security purposes. This will help in enhancing the trust of developing countries in the WTO’s negotiating arm," he added.

Goyal said the reform process should not be used to further restrict the flexibilities and policy space required by developing countries to integrate better with the global trading system. “It should open more opportunities for them, taking into account the contrasting levels of prosperity, unequal levels of economic development, and vast disparity in human development indicators, so that global trade becomes sustainable," he added.

Goyal’s statement came after US president Donald Trump on 22 January said India and China have taken “tremendous advantage" because of their developing country status.

“We have dispute running with the WTO for quite a while because our country has not been treated fairly. China is viewed as a developing nation, India is viewed as a developing nation, we are not viewed as a developing nation. As far we are concerned, we are a developing nation too. But they get tremendous advantages by the fact that they are considered developing and we are not. They shouldn’t be, but if they are, we are," Trump said addressing media at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

WTO chief Roberto Azevedo by his side, Trump said he will soon hold discussions with Azevedo to bring in dramatic changes in the trade body. “We are talking about a whole new structure about the deal. The WTO has been very unfair to the US for many many years. Without it, China wouldn’t be China. China would not be where they are right now. That is the vehicle that they used. Roberto and I have a tremendous relationship and we are going to do something. I think it would be very dramatic. He will be coming with a lot of his representatives to Washington sometime next week or the week after and we will start working on it," Trump said.

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