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Developing nations seek to fill WTO posts

Delhi declaration states if vacancies not filled it can paralyse WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism by December.

ET Bureau|
May 14, 2019, 11.40 PM IST
The US has blocked appointments to the appellate body. The quorum (3) for functioning will end on December 10.
NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday termed the ministerial meeting of 22 World Trade Organization (WTO) member nations a success and said that 17 countries, including China, signed the declaration for filling vacancies in WTO’s appellate body, among other issues.

“We had a very successful meeting and that non-appointment of members to the appellate body is the most urgent and critical issue was agreed by all participants,” said commerce secretary Anup Wadhawan, adding that its functioning needs to continue when some members retire.

In a separate statement, the Indian government observed that the aim of the ministerial meet was to re-energise the multi-lateral trading system, and exuded confidence that collective views of developing countries will help in reforming the body.

The declaration was signed by 17 countries, while the remaining five did not sign due to technical reasons. The declaration stated that if the vacancies in the appellate body are not filled it can completely paralyse the dispute settlement mechanism of the body by December.


The member nations, who signed the document, said the dispute settlement system of the WTO is a central element in providing security and predictability. The US has blocked appointments to the appellate body. The quorum (3) for functioning will end on December 10.

The declaration also stressed that special and differential treatment (S&DT) provisions are rights of developing members that must be preserved and strengthened in both current and future WTO agreements, with priority to outstanding Least Developed Countries (LDC) issues.

“Our position is clear that it is an unconditional right. It is not only a principle but a modality to help developing countries including LDCs to adjust themselves to the global trade rules,” said J S Deepak, India’s ambassador to WTO.

Under S&DT norms, developing members enjoy benefits like higher domestic support for agriculture and longer time periods for implementing agreements and binding commitments. The document noted that WTO reforms must keep development at its core, promote inclusive growth, and fully take into account the interests and concerns of developing members, including the specific challenges of graduating LDCs.

With reference to the global agreement on agriculture, it said there was a need to provide adequate policy space to the developing countries to support their farmers through correcting the asymmetries and imbalances on priority. Commerce minister Suresh Prabhu hoped that the initiative will reendorse the centrality of development in WTO negotiations.

“The efforts of the New Delhi ministerial meeting will definitely lead to a WTO which is better than what it is today,” Prabhu said.

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