NEW DELHI: The World Trade Organization (WTO) should focus on the issues at hand rather than expending time for new issues raised that crop up every now and then, according to commerce & industry minister Suresh Prabhu.
Speaking to a news agency here on Friday, the minister though clarified that India is not against discussion on new issues such as e-commerce but these cannot be used as a ploy to overshadow the important development agenda, especially the Doha Round.
“Some countries are raising the issue of e-commerce. But if you want to discuss that, let it be discussed in a work programme first. It should not be taken to negotiating position,” Prabhu said.
These remarks assume significance as the trade ministers of 164-member WTO will assemble at Buenos Aires, Argentina for ministerial conference next month.According to the minister, the ‘plate’ for negotiations is already full and that pending issues like the agenda of Doha Development Round should be concluded first. “By raising new issues, you are relegating the previously identified priorities in the background,” he said.
The pending agenda includes finding a permanent solution to the issue of food stockpiling. While India is keen on resolving this issue, developed countries are pushing for inclusion of new issues like investment facilitation, e- commerce and rules for MSMEs in the WTO agenda.
Finding permanent solution to public stockholding issue for food security purposes is in the interest of India’s food security and it should not be equated with trade issues, Prabhu added.
Prabhu said that conveniently the issues of Doha Round are getting relegated and virtually people want to call it off.
“We feel that the agenda items which came through Doha have relevance even today. Therefore, the developmental aspect of trade negotiations cannot be overlooked,” he added.
The Doha Round of negotiations launched in 2001 have remained stalled since July 2008 when the trade ministers’ meeting in Geneva collapsed due to differences between the rich and the developing nations mainly on the level of protection for farmers in developing countries.
He also said that one should not bring new issues everyday and instead first focus on the most important matters.
On India’s focus during the ministerial conference, Prabhu said the country’s priority would be to ensure that “WTO remains intact, stronger...better”.