(Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint)
(Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

India, EMs make case for special treatment at WTO

  • China, S Africa, Venezuela, India counter move seeking equal treatment for members
  • Under the S&D provisions, developing nations get longer time periods for implementing WTO agreements

NEW DELHI: India, along with China, South Africa and Venezuela, has insisted on continuing with the special and differential (S&D) treatment for developing countries at the World Trade Organization (WTO), countering efforts of the US, which is seeking equal treatment for all members at the multilateral trade body.

In a paper submitted to the WTO on Monday, the four countries said self-declaration of developing member status had been a long-standing practice and best serves the WTO objectives. The paper said the persistence of the enormous development divide between the developing and developed members of the WTO is reflected on a wide range of indicators such as levels of economic development, GDP per capita, poverty levels, levels of under-nourishment, production and employment in the agriculture sector, among others.

“Against this background, recent attempts by some members to selectively employ certain economic and trade data to deny the persistence of the divide between developing and developed members, and to demand the former to abide by absolute “reciprocity" in the interest of “fairness" are profoundly disingenuous," it added.

Under the S&D provisions, developing countries get longer time periods for implementing WTO agreements and commitments.

At the mini-ministerial of trade ministers, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum at Davos in January, India’s commerce secretary Anup Wadhawan made a strong case for continuing with the S&D measures for developing countries. “The (WTO) reform process must fully take into account the reality that despite some significant success stories in developing countries, on the average, they continue to lag far behind developed countries. Consequently, developing countries should not be expected to take the same obligations as the developed countries."

In his speech at the WTO Ministerial in Buenos Aires in December 2017, United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer had criticized the S&D treatment enjoyed by large developing countries like India. “We cannot sustain a situation in which new rules can only apply to the few, and that others will be given a pass in the name of self-proclaimed development status. There is something wrong, in our view, when five of the six richest countries in the world presently claim developing country status," he added.

However, India’s trade minister Suresh Prabhu had retorted that the discourse on development at the WTO is sought to be deflected by specious arguments based on aggregate GDP figures. “While in India we are proud of our GDP and growth rates in recent years, propelled by innovative economic policies of my government, we cannot ignore that India is home to more than 600 million poor people," he said. “Therefore, we are legitimate demanders for special and differential treatment for developing countries. It is also noteworthy that many developed countries of today have benefitted from long periods of derogation from GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) rules in the area of agriculture and textiles," he added.

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