India ramped up its supplies of medical products to different countries to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, but the WTO could not react with alacrity and the members need to bow their heads in "shame" for their inability to respond in time, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said on Sunday in Geneva.
He said that the member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have let down the people of the LDCs (least developed countries) and developing nations.
"My country ramped up supplies of medical products to provide medical and health items globally. Unfortunately, the WTO could not respond with alacrity. We have let down the people of the LDCs and developing countries. The rich countries need to introspect! We need to bow our heads in shame for our inability to respond to the pandemic in time," he said.
Mr. Goyal is leading the Indian delegation for the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC) of the WTO. MC is the highest decision-making body of the WTO, and it is meeting after a gap of over four years. The meeting is being held in the backdrop of the Ukraine-Russia war and the global food and energy crisis.
He said the pandemic reinforced the importance of 'One Earth One Health', calling for global solidarity and collective action.
The Minister also said India strongly believes that the WTO should not negotiate rules on non-trade-related subjects like climate change and gender, which legitimately fall within the domain of other inter-governmental organisations.
The pandemic has reinforced once again the need and efficacy of food stockholding for the public good, he added.
A permanent solution to the issue of public food stocks, which has already been delayed, should be the topmost priority for MC-12 before the members of the WTO move to new areas.
"Nothing is more important than this for the people of the world," he noted.
On the proposed agreement on fisheries subsidies, the Minister said the right to life and livelihood of traditional fishermen cannot be curtailed in any manner.
On the contrary, he said, those nations responsible for depleted fish stock should assume responsibility, having exploited the oceans for far too long by giving subsidies.
"In conclusion, let me say that when the world is facing severe challenges and expects the WTO to deliver solutions, the MC12 must send a strong message that the rich care for the poor, vulnerable and marginalised people and that we have come together to give them a better future. The WTO should embrace a people-first approach to trade," he added.