India will push for reforming and strengthening the World Trade Organization (WTO), amid stresses and strains over free trade among key global economies, at the upcoming G20 meeting in Japan.

Briefing reporters in New Delhi, Suresh Prabhu, India’s sherpa to the 28-29 June summit in Osaka, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi will highlight the fact that “slower global trade adversely affects economic growth". This will be Modi’s sixth G20 meet.

India feels that “the only way forward is multilateralism, but that does not mean it should not be reformed. So, multilateralism has to be a way of life, but has to be in a much better way," Prabhu added.

“We strongly feel that WTO should be strengthened and that should be the body through which global trade is regulated."

The remarks come against the backdrop of the US imposing unilateral punitive tariffs on India and other countries with which it has trade deficits, in a bid to ensure what it calls fair trade.

US President Donald Trump has also threatened to pull the world’s largest economy out of the World Trade Organization in retaliation for ruling against the US.

Trump was previously quoted as saying the 1994 agreement to establish the WTO “was the single worst trade deal ever made".

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer has also accused the WTO of interfering with US sovereignty.

Explaining India’s position on free trade, Prabhu said India has already opened up its economy to a great extent, making it “one of the most open economies of the world today".

“We have opened several sectors to foreign direct investment. So, now, India is right to demand that India should get reciprocal treatment from other countries. While we have opened the borders, we have not fully benefitted from it," Prabhu said.

The return of fugitive offenders and illegally acquired assets, besides terrorism, energy security, financial stability and innovation in the digital economy, will be some of the other subjects that Modi will highlight in his speech, Prabhu added.

Infrastructure to boost trade, including climate resilient infrastructure, will also feature in the PM’s speech.

Modi is likely to meet Trump, Russian president Vladimir Putin, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, besides other leaders on the sidelines of the summit.

The G20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Republic of Korea/South Korea, Republic of South Africa, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UK, the US and the European Union.

In addition, leaders of invitee countries and representatives of international organizations participate in the summit.

This time, Japan has invited representatives of several African countries to participate in the meet, Prabhu said.

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