Mr. Azevedo added that the trade environment globally was very risky at the moment and that the WTO was facing challenges from both within and outside. While India is keen to bring up the issue of rising protectionist tariff measures by Washington, the USA has expressed concerns over the trade body's functioning and sought reforms.
Representatives of Indian industry have voiced their opposition to negotiations on e-commerce rules at the World Trade Organisation in a meeting with WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo on Monday. They insisted on preserving the binding dispute settlement body system for global trade disputes, emphasizing that they will oppose any attempt to go back to the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) 1947 system, under which the loser had to agree before a ruling could be adopted.
Indian trade minister Suresh Prabhu has said he hopes the meeting, which is also attended by deputy USA trade representative Dennis Shea, could push the multilateral process forward after talks in Buenos Aires last December failed amid fears of a trade war. The WTO DG is in New Delhi to participate in the informal ministerial meeting on March 20 hosted by India.
Although the meeting does not have a fixed agenda, it assumes significance against the backdrop of the increase in duties on steel and aluminium by the U.S., and Washington dragging India to the WTO against its export incentive programmes.
The US is seeking reforms in the WTO's functioning, saying as world trade had changed since the WTO was set up in 1995. We have very significant challenges before us. However, there are only four judges now, with position for three member remaining vacant for over a year due to lack of consensus among countries with decision related to the appointments.
He also said the conversations are ongoing and whatever comes out of the informal meeting in New Delhi will be useful to the those that will take place in the headquarters in Geneva.
The commerce ministry has stated that the meeting will provide an opportunity to engage in free and frank discussions with the hope that it will lead to political guidance on some major issues.
While there were some encouraging trends in global trade, Azevedo pointed to the rising risks posed by recent protectionist moves by the members.