NEW DELHI: The mini-ministerial meeting of developing nations hosted by India in New Delhi made a strong case for filling up vacancies in the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) appellate body, which was long blocked by the Trump Administration in the US for delivering judgments not palatable to it.
The conclave, which included India, China, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nigeria, along with other developing countries, was also used by India and China to press for their case against the US and other Western countries bringing in definitions of ‘developing nations’ that could strip such countries of flexibility they enjoyed in their trade and tariff regimes.
The ministerial conclave declaration, signed by 17 of the 22 ministers, warned that the current impasse over appointments to the WTO appellate body could “completely paralyse” the dispute settlement mechanism. For the last two years, the US has blocked appointments to the WTO body, saying it had failed to adhere to the 90-day limit for issuing rulings and passed judgments on issues that were not part of its mandate. The WTO appellate body, which had seven members earlier, has three members now, which will be reduced to just one member this December.
“These are difficult times for the WTO, particularly for developing countries,” Indian Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu said. India, China and South Africa have already made common cause on both the vacancies in appellate body as well as on ‘special and differential rights’ of developing countries. Sources said while the European Union is on the same page as India and China on the appointments, it may remain neutral on the US demand for stripping rights that go with the ‘developing nation’ tag.
Among others, Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said that the “issue of filling in the vacancies in the Appellate Body of WTO should be resolved for making it functional without any further delay.”
Top officials said India, China and South Africa lobbied with ministers on defending their common tag. The three countries have already written to the WTO on the issue.
‘preserve our rights’
The declaration passed at the mini-ministerial meet on Tuesday stressed that provisions for special and differential treatment are rights of members from the ‘developing nations’, and those must be preserved and strengthened in all WTO agreements.