Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday called for changes in the World Trade Organisation, saying all countries benefit from global trade, PTI reported.
“The question is whether we should make the WTO better, or forget it,” Prabhu said at a Chamber of Indian Industry Summit. “Organisations need reformation all the time, and it needs to be changed with change in times.”
Prabhu’s suggestion comes just months after WTO talks in Argentina’s Buenos Aires in December 2017 collapsed because of differences between India and the United States over food subsidies.
In 2014, India and the US had agreed to find a permanent solution to the problem of public stockholding, which is vital to ensuring food security in India.
The WTO has a limit on subsidies for developing countries to ensure that global prices are not affected, but India pointed out it may need to breach that cap to feed its poor. India proposed either amending the food subsidy cap formula or breach the limitation. The WTO accepted the latter until a permanent solution is found.
However, the US went back on this commitment at the conference in December, disappointing not just India but several developing countries that wanted reforms.
On Sunday, Prabhu said the WTO was created on solid principles such as democracy and transparency, and that even the smallest country had a say in the 164-member organisation. “That is a very unique characteristic,” he said. “Therefore, we must bring transformation in the WTO itself to transform the world economy.”
As part of such efforts, Prabhu said India was organising a mini-ministerial meeting on March 19 and March 20, where representatives from several countries have been invited to “find ways of how to move forward”. “This forum is not against any country in the world,” Prabhu said.
In a major diplomatic move, India has invited Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Pervaiz Malik to participate in the informal WTO ministerial meeting, The Indian Express reported. Malik is said to have confirmed his attendance.
The report said India invited Pakistan after back-channel negotiations between the two national security advisers – India’s Ajit Doval and Pakistan’s Nasser Janjua – in December 2017. The invitation also comes days after the international Financial Action Task Force threatened to isolate Pakistan over terrorism.
Malik will meet Prabhu, but it is not yet clear whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will receive him, the report said.