The United States has raised concerns about the functioning of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and asked for reforms, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said in New Delhi on Monday. He added that discussions at the two-day informal mini-ministerial meeting, which began on Monday, will be useful for carrying forward the mandate of the multilateral trade body.
“The US wants some upgrade and reforms (in the WTO) and the conversations with the U.S. are going on,” Azevedo told the reporters on the sidelines of the informal meeting where around 50 WTO members participated in discussions. He added that the global trade environment was quite risky and the trade body had sought an “open and honest” conversation with its members. This is the second WTO mini-ministerial meeting being hosted by India, after the first in 2009.
Although the meeting does not have a fixed agenda, it assumes significance against the backdrop of increase in duties on steel and aluminum by the US administration, and Washington dragging India to the WTO against export incentive programmes. “This is a moment we are facing many challenges inside and outside WTO,” Azevedo said.
He said the outcome of the meeting here will be “useful to the conversations that we will be having in Geneva to try and move forward on all the items”. The WTO chief would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other ministers. “We have very significant challenges before us. We have the dispute settlement system compromised by a blockage in the appointment of appellate members and this will be the focus of conversations in New Delhi,” he added.
When asked about the issues being raised by the US about the WTO, he said America is supporting the negotiations but they have some “concerns” on the way the global trade body functions. Dennis Shea, Deputy United States Trade Representative, is attending the New Delhi meeting. Azevedo said US maintained that global trade had changed since the WTO, which deals with the global rules of trade between nations, was set up in 1995.
Under WTO norms, a member-country’s food subsidy bill should not breach the limit of 10 per cent of the value of production based on the reference price of 1986-88. India has been seeking amendments to the formula on stockholding, fearing that full implementation of its food security programme could result in breaching the WTO subsidy limit.