India ‘completely satisfied’ with WTO conference outcome: Piyush Goyal

India retained full policy space for benefit of farmers, fishermen at WTO, said Goyal

March 02, 2024 10:08 am | Updated 03:28 pm IST - Abu Dhabi

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal speaks in the final hours of negotiations at the World Trade Organisation biennial gathering of ministers, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on March 1, 2024.

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal speaks in the final hours of negotiations at the World Trade Organisation biennial gathering of ministers, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on March 1, 2024. | Photo Credit: Reuters

The outcome of the 13th ministerial conference of the WTO was "good" and India is "completely satisfied" as the country continues to retain its full policy space to protect the interests of farmers and fishermen in every respect, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has said.

He said that New Delhi's procurement of food grains for distribution among the poor continues uninterrupted and without any hindrance.

"India continues to retain full policy space for the benefit of our farmers, our fishermen, and in every respect, we have been able to take India's interests to the highest level possible," the Minister told reporters in Abu Dhabi after the five-day meeting of the Trade Ministers of 166-member World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Also Read | India expresses serious concerns in WTO meet over unilateral protectionist measures

As the members were not able to reach a consensus on key issues such as agriculture and fisheries subsidies, the talks that were scheduled to end on February 29 got extended for a day.

The talks at the WTO's ministerial conference ended with no decision on issues such as finding a permanent solution to public food stockpile and on curbing fisheries subsidies, but the members agreed to further extend the moratorium on imposing import duties on e-commerce trade for two more years.

The ministerial conference, the highest decision-making body of the WTO, also managed to get more outcomes such as new disciplines on domestic regulation for services, formal joining of Comoros and Timor-Leste as members of the WTO, and least developing countries continuing to get the benefits of LDC even three years after graduation.

India successfully pushed the food security issue and the country did not yield any ground on protecting the interest of poor farmers and fishermen as well as on other issues.

Mr. Goyal said "it's a good outcome and we are completely satisfied... A lot of issues continue to make progress in terms of discussions.

"Generally through the MC13, progress was made on several contentious issues which had not been closed for many years. Forward movement is always a sign of a possible closure going forward," he said.

He added that in the proposed fisheries subsidies agreement aimed to curb subsidies that lead to over capacity and over fishing, India found several ambiguities on the proposals that were on the table.

Some of the subsidies that certain countries give to their resource-poor fishermen were sought to be excluded.

Besides, definitions were not satisfactory and several areas where deeper consultations and greater degree of flexibility was required to ensure a fair and balanced agreement, were not possible in such a short period of time.

"By and large, the objectives with which we had come to Abu Dhabi are largely met and we go back fully satisfied," he said, adding, "our largest interest was to protect our farmers and our fishermen, both of which we are strongly doing and that is our offensive interest which we are actively pursuing."

On further extension of the duty moratorium on e-commerce trade, the Minister said that India was "not necessarily opposed" to it fully.

Since the members had not discussed the issues pertaining to the moratorium during the time between MC12 (happened at Geneva June 2022) and MC 13, such as its scope and its impact on different economies, "we believe that it's in the best interest that we continue this e-commerce moratorium", he said.

When asked about the effort of certain developed countries to push non-trader issues like investment facilitation agreement, environment and labour in the WTO, Mr. Goyal said India has been successful in making sure that such issues cannot become part of the WTO.

"Since investment is not part of the WTO and we did not allow to come in. Similarly, an effort was made to bring industrial policy discussions, again an area that India believes is not a part of the original Marrakesh (Morocco) framework.

"So while the effort can be made to bring in non-trade issues, I think India has successfully made sure that no non-trade issue can be allowed to be brought before the WTO," he said.

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