Initiatives like e-commerce among like-minded nations offer way forward for WTO, said the US Trade Representative.
Following the deadlocked World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting, India said the Ministerial Conference (MC) ended without any substantive outcome, while the U.S. — which had attracted criticism from several quarters for “undermining” the WTO and “holding it hostage” — claimed that the event was successful.
In a statement, India said the MC ended “without… any substantive outcome,” adding that “Due to divergences among members, and a few members not supporting acknowledgment and reiteration of key underlying principles guiding the WTO and various agreed mandates, Ministers could not arrive at an agreed Ministerial Declaration.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a tweet: “Congratulations to (WTO) Director General (Roberto Azevêdo) and (Argentine Minister and Chair of the Buenos Aires MC) Susana Malcorra on a successful MC.”
He added that “The new direction of the WTO is set: improving trade through sectoral agreements by like-minded countries.” Mr. Lighthizer was referring to three proponent groups of WTO members announcing ‘new initiatives to advance talks at the WTO on the issues of e-commerce, investment facilitation and small firms’.
In a statement, Mr. Lighthizer said, “The U.S. is pleased to partner with 70 WTO Members to initiate exploratory work on negotiations on e-commerce issues in the WTO… The launch of this initiative marks a significant milestone, with a large group of countries now working together to move forward in this important area within the WTO. Initiatives like this among like-minded countries offer a positive way forward for the WTO in the future.”
Meanwhile, European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said in a statement that, “I believe we have succeeded in changing the tone and orientation of our discussion about trade and development, moving beyond old ideological fault-lines towards actually addressing real development needs.”
She further said, “Whilst not harvesting results, the EU and many, many others are resolute in their support for moving forward on key issues for global trade. This is the true meaning of the statements that many countries, including the EU, have made on areas such as domestic regulation on services, e-commerce, investment facilitation — as well as supporting the integration of women and of small and medium sized enterprises in global trade.”
The Indian government statement said, in the run-up to Buenos Aires meet, decisions were expected on a permanent solution on food security and other agriculture issues. Indirectly referring to the U.S blocking the demands of more than a 100 developing nations, including India and China, to implement their food security programmes without onerous conditions, India said, “Unfortunately, the strong position of one member against agricultural reform based on current WTO mandates and rules, led to a deadlock without any outcome on agriculture or even a work programme for the next two years,” it said.
India, however, said the existing mandates and decisions ensure that work will go forward and members will continue to work on issues such as the permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes, agricultural Special Safeguard Mechanism and agricultural domestic support.