India to host WTO meeting in February

Suresh Prabhu
Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu has said India will call a meeting of some World Trade Organization (WTO) members in February to muster support for food security and other issues. "We are planning a meeting of WTO members in February," the minister said, adding it would be like a mini-ministerial meeting.

Although the contours of the meeting would be worked out later, he said the aim was to bring like-minded nations together and explain to them the country's position as well as concerns over issues of common interest.

This comes against the backdrop of developed nations forming groups to prepare the ground for pushing investment facilitation, preparing rules for e-commerce, promoting gender equality and reducing subsidy on fisheries with a view to curbing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. India has been keenly pushing agriculture issues at the WTO.

It has also been raising its voice against bringing new issues, especially those which are not directly linked to trade, on the negotiating table. The meeting, according to officials, would help India in explaining its stand on various issues to the member nations and preparing them for collective action.

India has been arguing that there are various other international forums to deal with specific subjects and non- trade issues, especially those concerning gender and climate change, need not be taken up at the WTO.

India not being blamed for collapse of talks

Prabhu said this was probably the first time in recent history that India was not being blamed for the collapse of talks at the ministerial meeting of the WTO. "We came here with an open mind, but things did not move because of the adamant attitude of some members," Prabhu told reporters.

The WTO conference talks collapsed with the US going back on the commitment made by it along with other member countries to find a permanent solution to the public food stockpile issue. Following the breakdown, there was no ministerial declaration at the end of the conference, though chair and Argentinean Minister Susana Malcorra made a statement highlighting the developments. 

"This is (for the) first time that India is not being blamed...we are definitely not going back as villains," Prabhu said, adding the country has not lost anything but gained a lot, especially in terms of the goodwill of the developing nations.

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