TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar18/16)
22 March 2018
Third World Network

"Might is right should not become rule in global trade," says India PM
Published in SUNS #8646 dated 21 March 2018

New Delhi, 20 Mar (D. Ravi Kanth) - India's prime minister Narendra Modi, expressing sharp concern over the continued threats posed to the effective functioning of the Dispute Settlement Body and the negotiating pillar of the World Trade Organization, cautioned on Monday that "might is right should not become the rule in global trade".

Without naming any country, particularly the United States which is the epicenter for numerous restrictive trade measures purportedly on national security considerations, Modi subtly pointed the finger at the US for precipitating the crises in the multilateral trading system, according to people familiar with the meeting.

In an emphatic message delivered to the WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo, Modi said that India remains concerned about the festering crises in the multilateral trading system.

He told Azevedo that India is committed to preserving the global trading system, particularly the negotiating and dispute settlement functions of the WTO.

Modi said that issues concerning the food security and agriculture must be addressed comprehensively before considering other issues in the global trade.

Without addressing the unresolved issues, it is inappropriate to ask developing and poorest countries to negotiate new issues, he told the WTO DG, according to people familiar with the meeting.

Azevedo, who called on the Indian prime minister for the first time, made a brief statement at the outset about the continued crises in the Appellate Body and the enveloping protectionist measures which could trigger tit-for-tat retaliatory measures among countries.

Without naming the country which is resorting to such protectionist measures, Azevedo said efforts need to be made for arresting the protectionist sentiment in the global economy.

In order to ensure greater engagement and participation for resolving the long pending issues in agriculture and other areas, countries must also take part in the new issues, Azevedo argued, according to people familiar with the meeting.

In sharp response to Azevedo's arguments, Modi said the binding Dispute Settlement Body must be preserved at every cost because of the security and protection it offers to small and developing countries.

Countries will engage in new issues only after the mandated issues in agriculture and development are addressed without delay, Modi told Azevedo.

The brief meeting witnessed back-and-forth discussions on several issues concerning global trade. Later, the Indian prime minister tweeted that he had a wonderful meeting with Azevedo.

Earlier, Azevedo had told representatives from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) that "we have the dispute settlement system compromised by a blockage in the appointment of Appellate members and this will be the focus of conversations in New Delhi."