India’s Statements as delivered during the General Council Meeting held on 6-7 March, 2023                                                                                                India’s Statements as delivered during the General Council Meeting held on 6-7 March, 2023

India’s Statements as delivered during the General Council Meeting held on 6-7 March, 2023

General Council Meeting

6th -7th March 2023

Statements delivered by India.

Agenda Item 2. Follow-up to outcomes of Ministerial Conferences

  1. MC12

(I) WTO Reform - Informal Meeting on Development of 2 and 3 February - Statement by the Chair

- Committee on Trade and Development Mandate: Focal Point for consideration and Coordination of work on development in the WTO

Thank you, Chair and Good morning colleagues. First of all, India would like to welcome the incoming PRs and Ambassadors and we look forward towards working with them. And at the same time, we wish all the best to the outgoing ambassadors and particularly our sincere thanks to Cheryl for her engagement and keeping the flag flying high for developing countries.

Chair, I will take this opportunity to thank DG also on what she said on Agenda one and we also thank DG for visiting India in spite of her busy schedule and challenging health conditions. So, we wish her a quick recovery.

On the agenda Chair, we think that development through trade is the focal aspiration for developing countries. And that was the aspiration when they joined the WTO. However, the developing countries, which constitute in fact more than two thirds of the membership, feel left out at some times as deliberations of development dimensions have not moved the distance. It is in this context, that the informal meeting on development convened by you was a welcome change. It was a good starting point. Members had an open, inclusive and transparent discussion on challenges and way forward. These discussions were well reported by four facilitators and the DDG Zhang. India suggests that the report of DDG Zhang is also circulated.

A suggestion that found favor with the members was the need for operationalizing the mandate of CTD as focal point on development. Several members made this proposal in the breakout and plenary sessions. It was felt that focal point approach is necessary for sustaining momentum and to engage in development discussions. This was well reflected in the report of the facilitators. It was also reflected in DDG Zhang’s report. This proposal was widely supported in the development informal meeting and there was no opposition to this. Therefore, Chair this is immediately doable, and let us not wait for MC 13. And I would request that GC should take decision on this issue in this meeting itself.

On the paper, I would like to mention also that we have had informal bilateral discussions on this issue in last few days, as there is keen interest among the membership on this proposal. This proposal is simple as it seeks that the CTD should be responsible for consideration and coordination of all work on development in the WTO. CTD should continuously review participation of developing members in multilateral trading system, highlight challenges and considered measures and initiatives needed in this regard. In the process, besides deliberation on development issues, CTD would call and consult with the other bodies in WTO through a regular two-way exchange of information, to remain informed of entire development discussions in WTO and report regularly to the General Council in a structured manner on the development function for appropriate action. This would ensure that the development issues are not lost sight of and there is a proper repository of development discussions in the WTO at a single place and CTD acts as a catalyst for ensuring discussion.

Chair let me clarify here which we have done in the Para 5 and Para 6 of our submission 865. It does not mean that the CTD takes over the work of any other body or exercise any oversight on other similarly placed bodies. CTD would simply consult and coordinate, and the discussions on the issues would continue to happen in relevant bodies. For example, G90 proposal it has to be negotiated in CTD SS being the relevant body for such negotiations. Similarly, LDC graduation proposal would continue to be discussed in the General Council.

Therefore, I would conclude by reiterating that General Council may agree to the proposal in this meeting. The modalities for operationalizing the mandate of CTD as focal point could then be worked out. Thank you Chair.

Towards the close of this agenda:

Chair, I would wish to remove some of the apprehensions raised. If we go through the submissions, we were guided by four things. The first one is the terms of reference for CTD and that is contained in document WT/L/46. The second one, again is the decision by General Council on 31st January 1995. Again, that is not new, it is the same document. The third one was the 9th Ministerial Conference Minister's decision which some of our colleagues have referred to, again contained in WT/MIN13/45. And the fourth and final was the deliberations which you piloted as informal discussions, so during those discussions, we got encouraged that misgivings or confusions about the implementation of the earlier three are getting clarified, ratified, and we are on a consensus to move ahead on this.

 Therefore, this proposal in para 5 and para 6 have actually explained and answered the apprehensions raised by members, because it is not taking away the rights or obligations of any of the existing bodies, it very clearly reiterates that. And in para 7, we have given the way ahead, so we are willing to engage, and again, I would like at the end, to remove any misgivings that this is to usurp upon the powers of any of the bodies of WTO it is only to coordinate, and as was said by some of our colleagues, as the focal point must be the custodian of some of the information which can work as institutional memory. Thank you.


I will take this opportunity to respond on EU paper. And then I hope you will give me another opportunity to respond on our submissions based on the comments. So let me take this opportunity to introduce my colleague and head of the multilateral trade negotiation division in India Shri Piyush Kumar, who is joining us here from Delhi and he had an opportunity just couple of days back to have a very detailed almost two hours of discussion with our DG. So, with your permission, I will give him the mic to respond on EU paper. Thank you.

Additional Secretary Mr. Piyush Kumar Thank You Ambassador, greetings to DG and Chair. We would like to thank you EU for making submissions covering a wide ground of focusing on enhancement of deliberative engagement in WTO as part of WTO reforms discussions, even though we may have differing views on the issues mentioned.

This proposal covers very diverse and wide range of issues in one document. We are of the view that the proponent may come up with separate submissions on issues contained in paras 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3 for meaningful discussions.

We are faced with serious challenges like food insecurity, debt financing, inflation, supply chain disruptions, infrastructure and unemployment. These challenges have been repeatedly highlighted by members. We would also like to discuss issues which are crucial for resilient, responsible and responsive trade. Developing countries are seeking improved understanding in the existing trade policy challenges. This is a must before we move to new policy challenges.  Also, WTO should confine it’s remit to WTO agreement rather than all existing trade agreements. Challenges in exiting WTO agreements needs to be deliberated first. There is long list of issues concerning developing countries and not addressed as yet, e.g., G-90 proposal, other S&DT issues, PSH, AMS, Trips waiver, DSB and so on.

We are of the view that approaching the issues of subsidies and state interventions, as “mine are good and yours are bad” does not help much. In the proposal proponent has highlighted the need for identifying gaps in existing rules in respect of trade and state intervention. We would emphasize similar need is there in  the context of development needs of the members. Proponent should be willing to discuss issues for a solution on issues like PSH, SSM, AMS, ERP, SCM flexibilities.

Further, in our view, discussions in existing forums would be sufficient and there is no need for a new forum as proposed. As regards trade an environmental challenge, we would have appreciated if the proponents had come up with the proposal before going ahead with unilateral measures. While engaging here on these challenges within the remit of WTO is appropriate, proponents may assure that unilateral measures will not be implemented while we engage in open and transparent manner. We should also engage on issues including the issues of transfer environmentally sound technologies, ), including financial commitments to ensure access to such technology, and investments in environmental projects,  climate finances, common but differentiated responsibility respective capabilities and special and differentiated treatment for developing countries. While engaging in these discussions, the WTO should engage on trade related environmental measure and should not transgress into the areas that are in the remit of other international bodies and the international environmental laws/ understanding. The WTO compatibility of EUs measures also needs a comprehensive discussion.

As regards trade and inclusiveness, we would like to categorically assert that issues of Labour, wages, worker, domestic distributional impacts etc, do not belong to the WTO and do not merit deliberation here. We are of conscious view that these are not trade related issue and does not merit discussion in the WTO.

As such, inclusiveness has different meanings for members, also member driven character of the organization be respected. It is the members who negotiate in WTO. Members are supposed to have discussions with their respective stake holders in their constituencies. It is expected that members would factor in the stakeholder inputs at their level instead of pushing for direct engagement of private sector civil societies here. The idea of constituting such consultative bodies here in WTO lacks authority, appeal and merit. Suggestions for this kind of engagement has been debated in past too and there has not been agreed to. Any such effort would bring in distortion in the member driven character of the WTO and we cannot agree to do a change in the basic structure of the WTO.  Thank you.


 First of all, let me begin by commenting on the report of the facilitator on the work programme on electronic commerce. Mr. Chairperson, India has been effectively using the digital revolution to provide digital services as a public good to almost 1.4 billion population. We have been working on digital identity system Aadhar and the universal payment system UPI interface as the developments on the digital public infrastructure side.

 The digital platform has been very handy for handling the pandemic issues, which last week's submission has also brought out, that how effectively we have been able to use this. We welcome the reinvigoration of the Work Programme on E-Commerce in the General Council after several years.

We thank Ambassador Usha Canabady for her efforts on organizing the dedicated sessions on E-Commerce in the General Council. These sessions have been well attended, constructive and a source of several real-world concerns that the members face in digital trade. Just two months in the reinvigorated Work Programme, we can already see that hard rule-making may not be the best way to enable all members to derive economic benefits from digital industrialization and e-commerce. We have participated constructively in the General Council deliberations putting forth our positions in form of working papers. We may also submit a paper in March session on the regulatory issues.

Likewise, we urge the proponents of the moratorium on customs duty on electronic data transmission to also do the same in the April session, especially with respect to the scope and definition of the moratorium. Based on the discussion today we request that the minutes of the dedicated session may be taken on record for the GC discussions. Thank you.

(III) Paragraph 8 of the Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement – Duration of extended deadline B. Buenos Aires (MC11), Nairobi (MC10), and Bali (MC9)

Thank you Chair, we would like to thank all the participants in this discussion on behalf of co-sponsors of 669 Rev. 1, we also take this opportunity to take note of your report which has three concrete actionable points. India would also associate with the statement of South Africa on behalf of 65 co-sponsors. And at the end, I only hope that TRIPS Council should continue deliberating on the substantive aspects as we seek the participation and guidance from the World Health Organization's and we hope to see substantive discussions and good faith engagement in this regard in the TRIPS Council while we await the US ITC process, that was elaborated upon by our colleague from the United States, which gets completed on 17th of October. Thank you Chair. 


Chair, the credibility of the WTO as an organization is judged on the basis of delivering on past decisions. So therefore, we had requested earlier, and we request again that the compilation of all outstanding decisions of our Ministers should be brought before General Council by the Secretariat. And as we know, Ministers represent billions of people back home. We believe ignoring their decisions certainly does not add to the credibility of the WTO, and here, I am referring to the decision on permanent solutions to Public Stockholding.

Chair, it is said in the WTO that the gestation period for any decision is pretty long, but ten years even by WTO standards, is way too long.

Chair, it's been ten years since the Ministers provided the Bali decision on the Permanent Solution to PSH.   

And it's also ironic that in times such as now, where every meeting room in the WTO and the other IO's are beaming with the discussion on food security, how to achieve it, and the issues involved in it, when we really need to deliver, we are falling short in achieving the permanent solution to the PSH that includes new programs and new products.

The food security of communities, societies and nations was never more critical than now, mainly due to recent developments. In such a situation, any new approach that does not consider the centrality of a Permanent Solution to PSH  in  the agriculture negotiations may not go far.

Some members have said that PSH is one of the solutions to ensure food security and is not the only solution. We agree. We never said it was the only solution. In the same breath, we are saying Free Trade is not the only solution for food security; free trade is one of the solutions, along with domestic production.

However, if one were to push this argument further, we would like to say there is enough evidence of how PSH programmes have avoided starvation and provided food security to the needy and the vulnerable during crises.

In fact, during the past two year's crisis, PSH had successfully provided food to the entire Indian population. The major agriculture exporters had a huge task to rise to the occasion and meet food security challenges in the current crisis, their performance was certainly not perfect, even with their best endeavours.  

The design and implementation of PSH in India has helped India maintain food security for 1.4 bn Indian people during a crisis period of the last two years, particularly, India has also helped countries in need who have approached India for bilateral support for food security in their country.

Therefore, rather than indulging in a theoretical debate, we may acknowledge a successful model and help countries implement their respective successful models without creating unnecessary barriers and pushing them into lengthy debates for  years.

Finally, Chair, from now on, we should first address the mandated issues on priority before the other elements of Agriculture are taken up. In fact, we should find the solution to the Ministerial mandated issues of PSH and SSM and adopt them at the GC level, as we did in 2014, instead of waiting for the next Ministerial Conference.

We have stated this in the consultations with the new COASS Chair Amb. Alp Arsalan Acharsoy, and also in the first COASS meeting of 27 Feb 2023, that negotiations in COASS should start with text-based negotiations based on available submissions. And for the PSH we already have a submission in the document JOB/AG/229 with the support of more than 80 countries.


Thank you, Madam DG, for your report. It is encouraging that several accessions processes have made good progress in the last year, despite no new accession having taken place since 2016. India is a strong votary of the rules based multi-lateral trading system and the integration of developing countries including Least developed countries into the multilateral trading system. In line with the guidance provided by our Ministers in the paragraph 6 of the MC 12 Outcome document India remains steadfast in our commitment in facilitating the accession process of developing countries including the LDCs. We will be completing the process on Comoros very shortly. Thank you.


Thank you Chair. India would like to thank Togo, which has presented this agenda on behalf of the LDC group. India once again reiterates its support for the LDC proposal, and we hope that members can build a consensus for an expeditious outcome on this important file, including a reasonable period for graduating members. Currently when we all are facing COVID relative shocks, and global economic slowdown with several developing, including least developed countries facing a balance of payment crisis, it would be more prudent to take expeditious action on this proposal to avoid aggravating the economic hardships of these countries. Thank you Chair.

Agenda 8 – MC12 Decision Implementation – Response to the Pandemic – Request from India

 Thank you, Chair. The COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed the capacity of domestic healthcare systems. The availability of health professionals became challenging. Social distancing measures made in-person consultations on medical issues challenging.

In pursuance of MC12 guidelines underlining the critical role of WTO in ensuring resilience during COVID-19 and future pandemics, India has made two submissions, one on building a pool of health professionals to respond effectively to pandemics/natural disasters and the other on delving into the role of telemedicine services in response to the pandemic crisis.  Among others, we looked at examples from India, Kenya, South Africa, Germany, United States and Brazil.

During the pandemic, several countries took measures to facilitate adoption of telemedicine.  The Indian government launched e-Sanjeevani, a web-based application that integrates registration, queue management, generation of e-prescriptions, short message services and email notifications. So far, e-Sanjeevani has crossed an astounding milestone of over 100 million teleconsultations. This platform has facilitated healthcare access across country, especially rural and isolated communities. It is designed for a scale, low-cost uptake of vital providers and patients.

Further, the government also launched COVID-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network (CoWIN), a state-of-the-art digital solution for one of the world's largest COVID-19 vaccination programme. India offered the technological prowess of CoWIN platform as Digital Public Infrastructure freely to all countries in the fight against COVID-19. India has so far achieved historical milestone of 2.2 billion doses of vaccinations and has generated appointment schedule and digital certification for vaccines through this network.

India also launched the Arogya Setu App bridged for healthcare aimed at COVID-19 contact tracing, self-assessment and informing the citizens about the best practices/relevant advisories pertaining to the containment of COVID-19. This open-source app is a readily available package for developers. Measures were also taken by members to reduce demand on public healthcare system, which we briefly captured in our submissions. As borne out of by WTO TISMOS data, cross-border trade in medical services (Mode 1) is most suitable mode in pandemic like situations, as this increased by 14%, while Mode 2 and Mode 4 supply fell sharply. However, cross-border trade in medical services remain much below its potential. There is, therefore, an urgent need to address issues like digital capability, regulations and guidelines, provisions relating to reimbursement under health care insurance schemes, inter-operability and professional liability, quality and continuum of care to facilitate such trade. Thank you, Chair.

Towards the close of the agenda

Thank you, Chair.  In my opening remarks, I talked about tele-medicines on the pool of professionals, it is pertaining to mention that COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique situation where surpluses and shortages of health-related resources existed simultaneously as pandemic came in waves, affecting different regions of the world at different times. The same was also witnessed within large countries too.  While natural disasters may differ from pandemic in terms of say the time period and localized geographical impact, the occurrence of such disasters and the severity are on the rise. Thus, both situations necessitated coordinated action across geographies for the management, mitigation and eventual recovery. 

To the extent that these cases do not affect all geographies at the same time, and with same severity, such coordinated action and burden sharing becomes easier. A critical element of response to such crisis is the recognition of availability of deployment of health professionals.

We may, therefore, explore the idea of establishing a globally recognized pool of trained health professionals, which could be drawn by a country in need of these resources during a crisis.  This collective burden sharing arrangement would be in the spirit of international solidarity, during situations of pandemics and natural disasters.

Establishing such a pool of resources would inter-alia require skill mapping, matchmaking an augmenting supply by temporarily relaxing regimes at both regional and global levels.  A critical element to facilitate the deployment of such global pool of health resources is development of multilateral framework norms for the recognition of professional qualifications in coordination with relevant international organizations.

This would be a crucial step in building preparedness for the pandemics and natural disasters.  Such professionals may also be granted special mobility rights or exemption from general movement restrictions. Such multilateral solidarity, in times of crisis, is essential for an effective response to pandemic and natural disasters. It is therefore, both ethically desirable and practically conceivable in this context. 

Despite the significant potential which foreign health professionals possess, to respond to such as in demand for services in another country, the uptake of the services remain limited owing to various regulations attached to it are managed for better preparedness to deal with future pandemic-like situation, therefore need to strengthen implementation of disciplines and facilitate recognition of such professionals so that they are delivered effectively.

Chair, we have also noted carefully suggestions and remarks made by members  in this regard.  The intent here is to share our experience in the fight against pandemic and such global crisis. Because issues are cross-cutting in nature, the papers were presented in General Council.  We would like to follow it up by further discussions in various Committees.

We will be happy to work closely with interested members in taking this collaboration in terms of workshops, seminars or other discussions on this important topic. Thank you, Chair.


 Thank you, Chair. India would like to thank Cameroon for submitting this proposal on behalf of the African Group and articulating the issues that are very relevant to the development objectives of the global south.

Chair, the poly-crisis and global economic shocks have seriously impacted developing countries. During these difficult times, it is imperative for developing countries including LDCs to maintain supply chain resilience against external shocks. Amidst enormous challenges, be it food insecurity, inflation, debt, unemployment, or declining economic activities, their survival would depend on economic diversification, industrialization and effective value addition.  However, this is a challenging task.

Historically, Chair, some members advanced and industrialized, used industrial measures to gain first mover advantage.  In their development phase, these advanced members have used policy options like domestic industry protection and state-support incentivization through subsidy regimes.

Chair, in the first phase of industrialization, no infant industry has grown unless positive support is provided one way or the other. Even today, we see the use of these similar policies in developed countries, especially in respect of new sectors and emerging areas such as green economy.   However, as pointed out by the African Group, these policy options were not readily available for developing countries, including LDCs, as international trade rules unfolded. 

Adding all this, unilateral protectionist measures, that add to their misery. Consequently, developing countries fall into a debt trap. The North-South economic divide widens, unemployment rises and sustainable development goals remain one layer talking point.  

To address these concerns to a certain extent, flexibilities in the form of a special and differential treatment provisions under various agreements are provided under the WTO mechanism.  But these provisions should be reviewed to strengthen them and make them more effective and operational, while simultaneously preserving a maximum degree of freedom for each developing countries, including LDCs to pursue legitimate economic objectives like diversification, industrialization, etc.

Chair, the paper presents pertinent points for the retention of policy space for industrial development. It is imperative that WTO deliberates, in greater details, the challenges faced by developing countries including LDCs in their efforts for economic diversification and industrialization. The paper presents certain very pertinent points, be it issue of flexibilities in TRIMS, or in subsidy agreement or otherwise, the need for affordable technology transfer.

These deliberations be widened further to identify other policy gaps in the existing rules, which are hampering the development perspective of developing countries, including LDCs, and the issues in the technology transfer, so that going forward, the existing rules be amended to provide much needed policy space and flexibilities to these countries. India would contribute keenly and constructively to these deliberations. Thank you, Chair.