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Industry urges govt to utilise mini-ministerial WTO platform 

SME Times , May 14, 2019

Industry body FICCI has urged the Government to use the mini-ministerial platform for creating alliances and consolidating support among member-countries to revitalize the multilateral trading system.

"It will help in effectively countering attempts by some countries to dilute the importance of multilateralism and weaken the WTO," said Sandip Somany, President, FICCI.

Complimenting the initiative of convening the mini-ministerial meeting, Mr. Somany observed, "We at FICCI feel this is a much-needed step as WTO has been under severe stress in recent times amid rising trade tensions and questions are raised over the relevance of the institution".

In a letter sent to the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, FICCI said that it would like the Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) to continue at WTO for all developing and least developed members, because S&DT provisions are an integral part of multilateral trade rules.

In view of the wide diversity in the level of development among WTO membership, there is need for sufficient flexibilities, it added.

"Just to cite one specific instance, India still has over 360 million poor and as of end-May 2018, it had 73 million people in extreme poverty. So, we just cannot wish away the continued need for S&DT provisions for developing economies like India," Somany pointed out.

Alluding to the issue of WTO reform Somany said, "Any dynamic institution needs to periodically undertake reforms. WTO disciplines and rulebook too need to be updated so that they stay relevant and are better-equipped to handle new and emerging trade issues of the 21st Century".

"Reform or modernization of the WTO should be approached in a balanced manner involving all sections of the WTO-membership and taking their interests as well as concerns into account," he added.

The practice of decision-making by Consensus should continue in WTO. While it may be useful to bring in select 'New Issues' in the agenda, it should not be done by replacing all the old issues (many of the old issues are long-standing and critical for developing countries), he added.