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WTO ministerial concludes with countries agreeing on need to resolve dispute settlement crisis

May 14
23:29 2019

The two-day World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting of developing countries concluded in New Delhi on May 14 with the 22 participating countries reaching a common ground on immediately resolving the dispute settlement crisis.

Roberto Azevedo, Director General, WTO, said that the dispute settlement issue is a deep crisis and all countries have to look for a resolution.

“Business as usual approach is not an option anymore and all members should work for a solution,” he said.

The WTO’s dispute settlement system is facing a crisis as the US has blocked the appointment of appeals judges since last year, which has now resulted in the shrinking of the numbers from seven to three. Two of the three judges are scheduled to retire on December 10, following which appeals made by WTO members on panel reports can’t be entertained.

“On most subjects common ground was reached. The non-appointment of members to the Appellate Body  was discussed. It has been agreed that this is the most important and critical issue that needs to be resolved and it was unanimously agreed that the continued functioning of the Appellate Body should be restored,” Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan said at a press conference.

India also made its stance clear on special and differential treatment. “Special and differential treatment are not only an unconditional right but also a principal and modality to help developing countries. Developing countries will continue to use this tool in future,” JS Deepak, India’s ambassador to WTO, said at the briefing.

Among the 24 invited countries, 22 participated and 17 countries signed a joint declaration issued after the meet.

“Kazakhstan, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil and Guatemala could not sign due to technical issues,” Wadhawan said.

On discussions on e-commerce and the rules to govern the sector, it was agreed that all proposed reforms need to be inclusive in nature and centre around the development of countries. All countries agreed that e-commerce boundaries were ambiguous.

E-commerce, or online trade in goods and services, has become a huge component of the global economy. A WTO report put the total value of e-commerce in 2016 at $ 27.7 trillion, of which nearly $ 24 trillion was business-to-business transactions.

“The New Delhi ministerial meeting is an initiative by India to facilitate a free and frank exchange of views on all issues of common interest, particularly of the Developing Countries and will explore how to collectively address the challenges emerging from suggestions on WTO reform,” Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu said.

The next round of discussions are expected to take place in Paris on the sidelines of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development meetings.

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