The United States on Monday said that India, China and Brazil should not be treated on par with poor countries at the World Trade Organization, prompting the Indian government to raise objections, The Times of India reported.

“We cannot sustain a situation in which new rules can only apply to the few, and that others will be given a pass in the name of self-proclaimed development status,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said at the World Trade Organization’s Ministerial Conference in Argentina’s Capital Buenos Aires. He was referring to differential treatment provided to developing countries under World Trade Organization rules.

“There is something wrong, in our view, when five of the six richest countries in the world presently claim developing country status,” Lighthizer added. “Indeed, we should all be troubled that so many members appear to believe that they would be better off with exemptions to the rules.”

In response, India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu said at a press conference later that the country is fulfilling its global obligation of pulling millions of people out of poverty, and that it was the right candidate for special treatment under World Trade Organization rules.

“Nearly 98% of Indian farmers are low income or resource poor and most of them are engaged in subsistence farming,” he said, according to The Hindu. “Many of them have to deal with unfavourable agro-climatic conditions, further compounded by climate change. My government is committed to doubling farmers incomes by 2022. Our circumstances make it imperative for us to balance trade liberalisation with the need to protect their livelihood.”

Prabhu added that though India’s Gross Domestic Product may be rising fast, its per capita income is much lower than that in developed countries. “Special and differential treatment for developing countries is a very important part of the World Trade Organization’s mandate and must be preserved,” he said.