WTO talks extend as leaders discuss ways to break impasse over agri, fisheries issues

Member nations discuss ways to find solutions to issues; India says it will not compromise on livelihood issues

Updated - March 01, 2024 07:29 am IST

Published - March 01, 2024 02:16 am IST - Abu Dhabi

Delegates pose for a family photo during the 13th WTO ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. File

Delegates pose for a family photo during the 13th WTO ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

WTO ministerial meeting has been extended by a day amid hectic parleys to bridge differences between developed and emerging economies on issues such as agriculture, fisheries subsidies, and e-commerce moratorium.

According to a communication by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the closing session of the four-day talks is now scheduled for March 1 afternoon. The 13th Ministerial Conference of WTO that started on February 26 was scheduled to conclude on February 29.

India’s stand

An official said talks are going on among the member nations on all the issues and India is clearly stating that it will not compromise the interests of farmers and fishermen. India has stated that there are livelihood issues and it wants enough space in all those matters for policy actions.

Also read: WTO MC13 | What’s on the agenda for India?

New Delhi is pressing for a permanent solution to the issue of public stock holding of grains for food security programmes and has asked developed countries engaged in distant water fishing to stop providing any kind of subsidies for 25 years, India is also pressing for ending moratorium on imposing customs duties on e-commerce trade.

India and South Africa have blocked a proposal led by China on investment facilitation stating that the agenda is out of the WTO mandate.

Also read: G-33 nations urge WTO members to find a permanent solution to public stockholding issue

It has also asked for restoration of the appellate body of the WTO's dispute settlement system. The US has been blocking the appointments of judges in the body since 2019, due to which the system is not working smoothly.

India is pitching for finding a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding (PSH) for its food security programmes. PSH programme is a policy tool under which the government procures crops like rice and wheat from farmers at minimum support price (MSP), and stores and distributes foodgrains to the poor.

As part of a permanent solution, India has asked for measures like amendments in the formula to calculate the food subsidy cap.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said that India is a consensus builder, but some countries are breaking that consensus. Further, the talks on non-trade issues such as trade inclusiveness, women's participation in trade, industrial policy and environment, in the draft Abu Dhabi package also remained unresolved so far.

However, the ministerial has managed to get at least five 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.

There were discussions on the demand of some developing nations including India's demand for updating the external reference prices used to calculate market price support in public stockholding, which are currently based on 1986-88 reference prices.

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