World Trade Organization DG may visit India ahead of December ministerial meet

Ahead of a key ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December, the multilateral agency’s Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is likely to visit India in the next few weeks. Sources said that Okonjo-Iweala may also meet indigenous vaccine manufacturers during her visit which is expected towards the end of the month.

“There is an indication she might come but nothing is confirmed yet,” said an official aware of the development.

As per another source, the DG is likely to visit India from October 20-22 and meet with industry leaders especially those involved in vaccine manufacturing.

The 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the WTO will take place from November 30-December 3, 2021.

“India is a prominent player and has many concerns in multilateral trade talks. She might want to gauge India’s thinking before the ministerial,” said a trade expert, adding that it has been a practice for senior WTO officials to visit key countries around the ministerial conferences.

At the WTO, India has been pushing for the food security programmes of developing and poor countries to be allowed without any limits and that members who give trade-distorting farm subsidies above $10 billion, eliminate them within three years.

New Delhi has pitched for a reduction in fishing capacity of countries that fish in distant waters or in the territorial waters of other countries, in a bid to balance overfishing subsidy restrictions with the special needs of developing and least-developed countries. The WTO aims to finalise disciplines to eliminate subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, in the upcoming ministerial.

Besides, Ibdia also wants a waiver for all WTO members of certain provisions of copyrights, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information in the Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement for prevention, containment or treatment of Covid-19.

As per another expert, the visit is crucial as the WTO’s legitimacy is in a crises with no major decisions having been taken for a long time.

“Non-trade issues have entered the WTO making it difficult for many members to decide their negotiating positions. No one is willing to compromise and decision making has been impacted,” the second expert said.

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