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Don’t want new issues at WTO meet: Prabhu

Ahead of the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) , India has made clear that it is not ready for talks to set up a global regime for new issues such as e-commerce until its concerns related to public stockholding and fixing earlier disparities in the global trading system are addressed.

 Earlier, Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia had observed that many of the new issues pushed by the developing countries like US are not directly linked to trade. Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu said some countries have a tendency to keep discussing new things instead of discussing what is already on the plate. He said, “We want to keep it focused”.

India has consistently opposed the inclusion of issues such as e-commerce to investment facilitation as it will help companies like Amazon to enter markets like China, India and Brazil easily.Currently India, for instance, does not allow business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce, prompting companies such as Amazon to operate "marketplaces" with restrictions on how much a vendor can sell. The government believes that several basic issues such as the definition are yet to be addressed.

 

Explaining India’s position in clearest terms Rita Teaotia has said: "Our position has been continuously that we will not refuse to engage (on new issues such as ecommerce). We are ready to engage. Nevertheless, the technical work must happen at the committee level. These issues must be thrashed out and only when they reach a sufficient level of maturity, they can be brought to a (WTO) ministerial. This is clearly our position."
JS Deepak, India's Ambassador to the WTO, said that unless India has its own national policy on e-commerce and investment facilitation, "...we should not be taking commitments in the WTO".

According to Prabhu, India will seek a solution to public stockholding problem as it restricts its ability to support its farmers. Additonally, it will push for reduction in domestic subsidy for agriculture in the developed countries apart from more market access for Indian farm goods in other markets, especially in the US, the EU, Canada and Australia. What will also be crucial is the American government's stance as the advent of Donald Trump has seen rising questions about WTO and free trade agreements that the US had signed.

 


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