Reiterating its commitment to the multilateral trading system, India has described the recent US protectionist measures as a setback for the fragile global economic recovery ongoing and potentially permanently damaging to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime.
In his intervention at the WTO’s informal ministerial in Paris last week, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu also expressed India’s reservations about introducing new issues in the WTO agenda at the expense of addressing fundamental issues in agriculture and development, a Commerce Ministry release said here on Monday.
On the recent cycle of unilateral trade measures and proposed counter measures, he said that actions and counter actions such as this could stop the fragile global economic recovery in its tracks, with consequences for jobs, GDP growth and development that would harm everyone and could also irrevocably damage the rules-based multilateral system built up with hard work over many years, it said.
“Instead of using such actions to deal with any inadequacy or unfairness in the WTO provisions, the best course of action would be deal with such issues within the WTO,” Prabhu said.
In March, US President Donald Trump slapped import tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium, unfolding the prospect of an all-out global trade war. China retaliated in April imposing tariffs as high as 25 per cent on 128 American products.
According to the statement, Prabhu also “said that India has reservations about the introduction of new issues such as Investment Facilitation in the WTO lest fundamental issues in agriculture and development get neglected.”
At the Buenos Aires ministerial in December which failed to reach an agreement due to the US intransigence on the issue of food stockholding, India continued to press for the reduction of farm subsidies by developed countries and resisted inclusion of new issues on the negotiating table like e-commerce and investment facilitation into the ongoing Doha Round of talks that have a developmental agenda, in case these dilute the commitment to complete the existing agenda.
Stating that trade must contribute to development, he said that governments in India and many other developing countries have to accord priority to addressing the challenges in the journey towards greater trade liberalisation and global integration, the statement said.
“He cautioned that any endeavour at the WTO for reciprocal trade rules, which ignored this reality, would further deepen the divide and aggravate the disenchantment with globalisation,” it added.
The ministry also said that Prabhu separately met WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo and discussed the current international situation arising “from various unilateral trade actions and counter actions” and the challenges facing the WTO.