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Jan 27, 2018 10:36 AM IST | Source: PTI

Trade ministers feel WTO is facing significant challenges

It was also felt that the WTO is facing significant challenges and fundamental reflections are required at the political level on major issues of divergence.

Trade ministers from various countries including Australia, Japan and Switzerland met for an informal WTO ministerial gathering to discuss the way forward for the global trade organisation, with India offering to host another such meeting in March.

The meeting would be held in New Delhi on March 19-20.

It was also felt that the WTO is facing significant challenges and fundamental reflections are required at the political level on major issues of divergence.

The meeting, also attended by the US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, was held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual summit. India was represented by Deepak Jagdish Saksena, ambassador and permanent representative to the WTO.

A dinner was hosted last night here by the WTO for trade ministers of the member countries which was also attended by Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu.

In a statement, the Swiss government said the informal meeting hosted by it and convened by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo sought to start a dialogue on the way forward following the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference held in December 2017 in Buenos Aires.

29 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), representing a broad range of interests, participated in the gathering, it added.

Ministers shared their assessment of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference and also discussed possible ways forward in trade negotiations as well as other aspects of the WTO.

Besides, the ministers welcomed the positive outcomes achieved in Buenos Aires, notably on fisheries subsidies.

At the same time, they expressed their disappointment over the lack of further multilateral outcomes and acknowledged significant challenges lying ahead in the WTO.

Ministers expressed their willingness to pursue their active engagement in view of preserving and further developing the multilateral trading system.

In concluding remarks by the Chair, Switzerland's State Secretary Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch said the ministers welcomed the fact that in spite of challenging circumstances, some positive results were achieved at the 11th ministerial conference.

However, disappointment was voiced about the lack of further convergence and outcomes, she said.

It was noted, from different perspectives, that the WTO is facing important challenges and that fundamental reflections, including at political level, would be required on issues where major divergences exist, she noted.

In many interventions, a need to preserve and enhance the functioning of the multilateral trading system and the existing WTO framework was emphasised. These include work of the regular WTO bodies and the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism, with particular concern being expressed about the situation of the appellate body concerned.

Among horizontal challenges faced in multilateral negotiations, the question of how to take into account different and evolving levels of development of members was highlighted.

Furthermore, a need to re-engage in negotiations on a range of longstanding issues relevant to members was expressed by many participants, taking into account what prevented more progress so far.

Besides, the ministers reaffirmed their willingness to pursue their engagement on WTO and to address key issues.

In this context, India announced that it will host an informal WTO Ministerial gathering in March, the statement said.
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