WTO should be more responsive to needs of developing and least-developed countries: Nirmala Sitharaman

10917831_490726471065766_4328902491962471849_nNew Delhi: Minister of State for Commerce & Industry (Independent Charge), Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman has appreciated the goof work of World Trade Organization (WTO) in stemming protectionism and urged it to be more responsive to the needs of developing and least-developed countries. Speaking at The Partnership Summit 2015 in Jaipur today, Smt. Sitharaman expressed concern that some countries have started to equate only free trade with development.

The Minister highlighted that few developing countries have improved their share of global trade. Least Developed Countries (LDCs), according to her only accounted for 1% of global trade. She felt that in order to sustain growth, job creation and inclusive development must be emphasised. Development encompasses other things besides trade including the burden to feed over 32 per cent of India’s poor who live under abject poverty – a concern that the WTO recognised. The Minister urged the members of the WTO to show the same urgency on food stockholding as the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) under the Bali Package.

Development is at the centre of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), and many issues of importance for developing countries such as subsidies and non-tariff barriers that are not part of free trade agreements can be addressed through the WTO. “Trade negotiations need to refocus on multilateral agreements which recognise the legitimate concerns of the developing countries”, said Smt. Sitharaman.

Mr. Roberto Azevedo, Director General, World Trade Organisation (WTO) said that the Bali Package will deliver on the development front by enhancing developing countries’ ability to integrate into the world economy. Mr. Azevedo also highlighted India’s contribution to the multilateral trading system.

Mr. Azevedo noted that the benefits of TFA will be visible to Indian industry as competitiveness and exports will receive a boost once members ratify the agreement. The TFA will bring down trade costs by 15 per cent and bolster south-south trade. He added that the remaining issues under the DDA will need to be refocused before the Ministerial Conference in Nigeria at the end of the year.

Mr. Azevedo also added that development has been made a priority as the development dimension is crucial in balancing the global trading system. He stated that WTO provides developing and least-developed countries a seat in the rule-making table as they are not included in the current regional and mega-regional trade agreements.

Earlier welcoming the participants to the session, Mr. Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) stated that the expectations from the WTO in delivering on the development front were high. He noted that twelve years of negotiations have resulted in the Bali Package, an important albeit small part of the Doha Development Round’s initial ambition to rebalance the global trading system. Much more needs to be done very quickly.

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OdishaInc Bureau