India's Statement at Informal TNC/HODs meeting dated December 6, 2019

Informal TNC/HODs

December 6, 2019

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Statement by India

1. Thank you, DG, for convening this informal meeting of the TNC and for your report and assessment as the Chair of the TNC. We also thank the Chairs of the Negotiating Groups for their reports.

State of Play

2. The cynical strangulation of the Appellate Body and the attack on the principles of non-discrimination and special and differential treatment have cast a pall of hopelessness on the WTO.

Appellate Body

3. With 4 days to go before curtains come down on the WTO Appellate Body, it is clear that the binding, two-stage, independent dispute settlement mechanism, that gave teeth and credibility to the rules based multilateral trading system is well and truly dead. This will undo one of the biggest achievements of the Uruguay Round and trade will rapidly regress to an era of power politics. While we agree that the dispute settlement system does require improvement, we believe that the systematic assault on its very existence is neither appropriate nor was necessary. Moreover, it is in direct contravention of the treaty-obligations of WTO Members, and is a far more serious lapse than anything that the Appellate Body can be charged with ! It is also distressing to note that every effort of almost the whole WTO Membership to find solutions has been rebuffed. This kind of brinksmanship apparently originating in pique and prejudice rather than in a desire to reform is leading to a total breakdown of trust within the WTO and will have a debilitating effect on its other pillars as well

Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations

4. Coming to ongoing negotiations, we must be mindful of the need of rapidly progressing the negotiations on disciplines in harmful fisheries subsidies. The mandates by SDG 14.6 and the MC11 decision on fisheries subsidies must be honoured in both letter and spirit. We would like to caution Members that in sensitive areas like fisheries and agriculture, where the livelihoods of a large number of the poor and marginalized are at stake, reneging from a commitment to provide special & differential treatment to Members like India will derail these delicate negotiations. We will look closely at the Chair’s report, on fisheries subsidy negotiations, Facilitators’ working texts, proposed process and work programme upto June 2020 through this lens.

E-Commerce Moratorium

5. In the era of digitization, it is important to significantly update the 1998 Work Programme on e-commerce and to understand the scope of the moratorium on customs duties on ETs, its potential impact on revenues and domestic industry of developing Members. Business as usual will not suffice and an updated Work Programme which can lead to focussed engagement to provide clarity on these issues, is the need of the hour. Reluctance or inability to engage sincerely on these issues now is likely to jeopardize any chances of consensus on extending the moratorium at MC12. More on this in the GC.

WTO Reforms

6. On WTO reforms, our view is that they should be premised on the principles of inclusiveness and equity, and not serve to widen existing asymmetries in the covered agreements. We look forward to an active engagement leading upto MC12 in this area and a balanced outcome.

Agriculture

7. Agriculture negotiation outcomes have the potential of being like the proverbial incoming tide that could lift all boats and meet the needs and aspirations of a large number of Members. For progress in agriculture, it is important that we engage in earnest to build upon and advance the work of the last several years and to implement existing decisions and mandates.

Conclusion

8. Chair, to conclude, we are at a critical juncture, as challenges have amplified and the multilateral rules-based trading system is facing grave threats. Keeping in view the aspirations of the large majority of Members, our priority should be to balance our agenda and make it inclusive, transparent and development-oriented. First and foremost, we must continue work to address the impasse in the Appellate Body appointments and not clamber onto second rate solutions. Winston Churchill said, “we should not waste a good crisis” and I believe this is the time to continue putting pressure on the recalcitrant by pressing the draft decision emanating from the Walker process. If we do not persevere and stand together to preserve what we have, we are unlikely to succeed in shaping the future we seek and aspire for.

9. I thank you, Chair.

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