NEW DELHI: Senior officials from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) member countries are meeting in Geneva from Monday to lay the groundwork for the next ministerial conference of the global trade regulating body which will involve reviewing the status of progress on the decisions of the previous ministerial conference and reforms in the global trade regulating body.
The two-day meeting comes ahead of the 13th ministerial conference of the WTO which is scheduled for February next year in Abu Dhabi. The meeting of officials will provide necessary political push and help address specific problems to advance work for the 13th ministerial conference, an official said.
The ministerial follows the G20 Delhi Declaration avowing to guard against protectionism and give a fresh impetus to the rule-based multilateral trade liberalisation, ending a long hiatus for the world body.
While the top trade officials of the WTO member countries are in Geneva for the two-day conference, they will also be participating in the Trade Negotiations Committee of the General Council. The General Council is the highest decision making body of the WTO at Geneva. It has the authority to act on behalf of the ministerial conference which meets once in two years.
From India, senior officials, including Additional Secretary in the commerce ministry Peeyush Kumar, will be heading the Indian team.
On agenda for the meetings of officials would be to provide guidance on the agriculture negotiations with focus on addressing food security challenges.
Developing countries led by India are demanding a permanent solution to provision of public stockholding and government purchases at administered prices which they say is an important building block of food security superstructure. The bog food exporters, however, maintain that removing trade distorting subsidies would serve that purpose well.
Developing countries already have a ‘peace clause’ that was agreed to at the Bali Ministerial Meeting in 2013 and allows them to carry on with their domestic support programmes but they want to make it permanent.
Another big issue for India is ending the moratorium on taxes on cross-border trade through e-commerce. The decision on not taxing cross-border electronic transmissions was taken in 1998 and the waiver has been extended every two years. Now as the e-commerce has grown multifold India wants the waiver to go.
The e-commerce taxation issue is being discussed in detail by the officials at the WTO. Next month the WTO report on the issue prepared in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will be released that will guide the talks further. The officials are aiming to arrive at the possible solutions to the issue and place it before the Abu Dhabi ministerial conference.
Source: The Financial Express