The topmost decision-making body of the WTO is the Ministerial Conference, which usually meets every two years. It brings together all members of the WTO, all of which are countries or customs unions. The Ministerial Conference can take decisions on all matters under any of the multilateral trade agreements.
Taking a lead to break the impasse, India hosted a two-day informal meeting of 50 WTO members here which deliberated upon ways to create a positive atmosphere for carrying forward the mandate of the global trade organization.
The two-day meeting, attended by by representatives of 50 countries, including the US, some African nations and China, comes against the backdrop of imposition of import duties on steel and aluminium by the US administration, and Washington dragging India to the WTO against export incentive
programmes. The idea of the meeting is to create an atmosphere, so that this negativity around global trade and multilateral trading system should reduce and all the countries should benefit from open trade , Prabhu has said.
Although India has invited Pakistan for the meeting, the neighbouring country has decided to skip the conference. The meeting, also assumes significance as the global trade appears fragile with certain developed countries threatening to retaliate the duty hike on steel and aluminium products by the Trump administration. WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo, who was here for the meet, said: "We are facing many challenges in the WTO and outside. Trade environment globally is very risky at this point of time. We will try to have an open and honest conversation at the informal WTO meeting here". He told reporters that 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 meeting also discussed the issue of appointment of members of the appellate body of the WTO's dispute settlement body. The US has blocked appointment of these members, which would hamper its functioning.
The Informal WTO Ministerial Meeting was an exercise to create confidence and bring countries together to discuss common issues like food security and agriculture. Although there are differences among countries, there is no substitute to dialogue, bilateral and multilateral, said the Minister.
DG WTO Roberto Azevedo said that New Delhi was the first opportunity to have a conversation at the political level after Buenos Aires and all the members have realized the seriousness of the situation and have recognized that solutions will have to be worked out by collective effort. The DG WTO went on to say that member countries had frank and manifold dialogue and expressed strong support to the WTO system. He went on to say that although there are tensions in trade relations around the world and there is concern on unilateral decisions taken by some countries which have the probability of escalation, but members are committed to actively engage to find solutions.
Secretary Commerce, Rita Teaotia and India’s Ambassador to WTO, J.S. Deepak and Special Secretary, Commerce Dr. Anup Wadhawan were also present.