Mr Roberto Azevedo, Director General, World Trade Organization (WTO) stressed the need for WTO members to come together, adopt a flexible posture and cooperate in resolving the global trade related issues. The WTO Director General was speaking at an Industry Interaction organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi. The Industry Interaction with Mr Azevedo was organized on the sidelines of the informal WTO Ministerial organized by India.
Although the Ministerial Meeting in Buenos Aires in December 2017 did not conclude with a unanimous declaration, Mr Azevedo recognized the strong engagement from various countries and mentioned that it concluded with many positive outcomes. This includes the creation of the working party on accession for South Sudan, a commitment to improve the reporting of existing fisheries subsidy programmers and to develop a framework for future negotiations on E-commerce in the WTO.
Mr Azevedo in his speech appreciated the initiative and the leadership role taken by India in organizing the Mini Ministerial at a key moment in global trade. He stated that there are encouraging trends in global trade in terms of increased export orders, merchandise trade volumes and sea-trade traffic pointing to growth above trend in the first quarter of 2018. However, he also pointed to the rising risks to this positive outlook with recent incidents of increased protectionist moves by members. He cited the recent tariff increases by the US for steel and aluminum among other protectionist measures by other countries.
Commenting on the role of CII, he said that such forums organized by CII are very important for Industry stakeholders to engage and convey the industry perspective to the WTO through the government, as it is through business which the positive effects of trade are percolated into the economy and society.
Mr J S Deepak, India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO in his remarks touched upon the backlash against Globalization and Free Trade by proponents of the same in recent times. Part of it, he believes stems from the fact that trade and globalization were more disruptive than anticipated and that not enough has been done on inclusion.
According to Mr Deepak, both exports and imports can be good. Exports are good for manufacturers and imports can be good for consumers and for value addition in the country. Turning to subsidies provided to agriculture and fisheries, he points out that India still possesses many marginal farmers and 600 million people still earn only 2 US dollars a day. He stressed India’s stance on demanding Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) for developing economies. He reaffirmed India’s belief in the multilateral trading system as the way forward as it promotes non-discrimination, predictability and transparency.
Ms. Shobana Khamineni, President, CII said that India has been a strong votary of a WTO and multilateral trading system. Indian Industry too has always supported and championed the cause of multilateral trading system. Indian Industry strongly favors an early conclusion of Doha Round without diluting its core developmental spirit. She points out that while two new areas – E-commerce and Investment facilitation are being discussed at the WTO, a lot more needs to be done in terms of understanding the scope of these proposals and its impact. Care must be taken according to her to preserve domestic policy space.
Earlier in his opening remarks, Mr Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII said that while merchandise trade has seen growth, the global scenario still remains challenging. E-commerce according to him is more than IT & ITES and while there are big firms in e-commerce, in India there are a lot of start-ups in the e-commerce space in India. Mr Banerjee said that the WTO still plays a key role in the multilateral trading system.