WTO reforms should be wholistic, comprehensive: Goyal

NEW DELHI: Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday made a case for wholistic and comprehensive reforms of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) without ignoring the ground realities, especially the stark inequality among developed and developing nations.

He said instead of going for a piecemeal reform, the members should take on board issues of all countries of the WTO.

“It is the time when all members of the WTO start looking at some of those reforms that have been pending for long. When we look at reforming the WTO, (it should be done) wholistically and comprehensively. It cannot be pick and choose,” Goyal said.

He was speaking at a programme of South-South and Triangular Cooperation here.

“I do hope that as we look at reforming the WTO, a little bit more relevance to today and 21st century realities will come into play,” he added.

The statement comes at a time when the US has called for reforming the world trade body. The US wants formulation of some guidelines regarding special and differential treatment (S&DT), which is meant for developing nations.

The S&DT allows developing countries to enjoy certain benefits, including taking longer time periods for implementing agreements and binding commitments, and measures to increase trading opportunities.

The US also wants reforms in the dispute settlement body of the organisation and it has put roadblocks in appointment of new members in the appellate body of the WTO.

The minister said free trade cannot happen in two trading partners if their level of economic development is different.

“You really cannot have free trade between the country having per capita GDP of USD 1,000, or USD 2,000 or USD 4,000 and other of USD 60,000 and USD 80,000,” he said.

He said it is a “ridiculous argument” to say that two trading partners with this level of development should compete equally in global markets.

Geneva-based WTO is a 164-member body which frames rules for global trade. India is a member since 1995.

“India has always supported an open, inclusive, transparent, non-discriminatory and rule-based international multilateral trading system and engagement with countries,” Goyal said.

He also said currently India is one of the most open economies and no developed country can say otherwise.

Goyal added that some developed countries claim to be an open economy but they impose non-tariff barriers and “make it worse than a closed economy”.

“Closing the door through surreptitious manner is not good,” the minister said adding people who are following protectionism “give us huge amount of sermons”.

He urged the countries to engage frankly with each other in both diplomatic and trade relations.

Goyal said if protectionism and unilateral measures would continue then “I think we are looking at a serious world recession and no country will be out of that problem”.

“I think it is important that instead of walking out of the current system, the world should quickly re-engage to ensure that this rule based, transparent and non-discriminatory governance that free trade requires is taken forward far more honestly and with greater degree of focus but also recognising the interest of different countries,” he said.

Further, the minister also pitched for bringing a sense of urgency while negotiating a free trade agreement or South-South Cooperation. (AGENCIES)


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