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WTO must incorporate emerging issues to remain relevant, says Suresh Prabhu

The 11th WTO talks collapsed last week as the US backtracked on its commitment to find a permanent solution to the public food stockholding issue, leaving India and other developing nations disappointed.

india Updated: Dec 19, 2017 14:24 IST
PTI, New Delhi
WTO,World Trade Centre,Suresh Prabhu
File photo of Suresh Prabhu in New Delhi(Pradeep Gaur/Mint Photo)

The WTO must incorporate emerging issues if it wants to remain relevant in the changing times, Union minister Suresh Prabhu said on Tuesday, asserting that India will organise a “mini ministerial” meeting of the global trade body within a few weeks to help realise this objective.

The 11th WTO talks collapsed last week in Buenos Aires, ending without any ministerial declaration or any substantive outcome with the US going back on its commitment to find a permanent solution to the public food stockholding issue, leaving India and other developing nations disappointed.

“We are in the next few weeks going to organise a major conclave in India wherein we want to bring in the top countries of the world. We call it the mini Ministerial for the WTO (World Trade Organization), Prabhu said.

He had earlier said that India will call a meeting of some WTO members in February to muster support for food security and other issues.

Developed nations have been forming groupings to prepare the ground for pushing investment facilitation, preparing rules for e-commerce, promoting gender equality and reducing subsidy on fisheries.

India has been keenly pushing agricultural issues at the WTO. It has also been raising its voice against bringing in new issues, especially those which are not directly linked to trade, on the negotiating table.

Addressing a conference in New Delhi, Prabhu pointed out that the idea behind the mini-ministerial was that the WTO must also focus on some of the very relevant issues of the world today.

“If you say that we are going to discuss only those issues, then probably WTO will be a very good historical institution, which will have a very good place in some of the good regions of the world,” he said.

“But if you want to make sure that WTO becomes relevant to times that are changing, then we must also incorporate into WTO some of the very emerging important issues,” he added.

Addressing the Services Conclave organised by industry body CII, he observed that India must have a clear-cut, holistic strategy to realise the true potential of its services sector, which can create a large number of jobs.

Moreover, he said, efforts must be made so that services contribute significantly to the global trade, particularly India’s exports.

Prabhu said the Commerce Ministry is working in collaboration with the EXIM Bank on a market strategy, clearly defining each market and geography with the kind of products that will be sold there.

India must become the front office of the world in providing services globally, Prabhu said.

“It is a unique position that we enjoy today, that we are actually the service providers. I don’t want to call ourselves as some other countries wanted to described India some time ago, that we are the back office of the world.

“I think we are not really the back office, we should be the front office, and not just office but we should be at the front of providing services of all kinds,” he added.

Highlighting that the service industry has grown immensely in India and the country’s services are accepted globally, he said the country must now leverage that advantage to be a global leader in services.

He said the services sector will actually pull along with itself even manufacturing and agriculture in a substantial way.

First Published: Dec 19, 2017 14:23 IST