India's statement at informal TNC/HODs meeting held on 14 October 2019 India's statement at informal TNC/HODs meeting held on 14 October 2019

India's statement at informal TNC/HODs meeting held on 14 October 2019

Informal TNC/HODs

October 14, 2019

Statement by India

1. Thank you, Director General. Congratulations on the success of the WTO Public Forum and the launch of the World Cotton Day. We also thank you and the Chairs of the Negotiating Groups for their reports.

State of Play

2. Today, we are in a full blown crisis at the WTO. The attack on principles of non-discrimination and special & differential treatment continues and the Appellate Body will be all but paralysed, come 11 December, 2019. This inability to preserve and protect what we have, will have a chilling effect on the rules based multilateral system, one that would be difficult to undo and which may last for a long time.

3. In this dark scenario, let me briefly share some thoughts on important issues and areas of work.

Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations

4. India provides only survival subsidies to our 4 million plus subsistence fishermen, which we notify transparently at the WTO. We are at the same time, committed to contributing to a solution to improve the health of our oceans and sustainability of fishing. However, while negotiating the subsidy disciplines, we must be mindful of the mandates of SDG 14.6 and the MC11 decision on fisheries, both of which clearly state that there should be appropriate and effective special & differential treatment for developing countries. These mandates need to be honoured in letter and in spirit. We would like to remind Members that in sensitive areas like fisheries and agriculture, where livelihoods of a large number of the poor and marginalized are at stake, especially in developing countries, reneging from mandates is likely to unravel progress and delay outcomes. The lessons of Buenos Aires cannot be forgotten so soon.

WTO Reforms

5. For the last year and a half, WTO reforms have been at the centre-stage of our discussions in Geneva. Initially, the reform agenda was a one-sided narrative. In order to ensure balance in WTO reform, India together with some developing countries tabled a ‘developing country reform paper’ at the WTO’s General Council meeting in July 2019 on the basis of the New Delhi consensus among some developing Members. This paper has now been co-sponsored by 45 WTO Members. It emphasizes that discussion on WTO reform 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 on our proposal.


6. Given the clear, empirical data on challenges faced by developing countries at various stages of development we are convinced that there are no grounds for diluting special and differential treatment. Indeed, on the other hand, in light of the imprecise, unenforceable and ‘best endeavour’ nature of existing S&D obligations in the WTO Agreements, the call should be for more, not less. Continuing with the divisive rhetoric on differentiation would only serve to widen the trust deficit amongst Members. In this important area, the silence of those who are committed to the WTO principles enshrined in the Marrakesh Agreement, can be more harmful than the violence of those who challenge those principles. We propose to address this issue in more detail at the meeting of the General Council tomorrow.

E-Commerce Moratorium

7. We believe the 1998 Work Programme on e-commerce needs to be worked further to get clarity on many areas including definitions and potential impact on revenues and domestic industry of developing Members. Otherwise a decision on that moratorium, much like rulemaking on e commerce, will be a leap in the dark. It will be a case of the undefined being negotiated by the unprepared in order to get the unspecified for the uninformed !


8. Chair, to conclude, we are at a critical juncture, as challenges have amplified and the multilateral rules-based trading system is facing existential 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 work to preserve the system by ending the impasse in the Appellate Body appointments with a sense of utmost urgency. Members would do well to heed Elvis Presley’s advice, “a little less conversation, and a little more action.” Rather, a lot more action, particularly to follow up on the work done as part of the Ambassador Walker process. In this context, we need to urgently strive to get done collectively, what we all treasure individually.

9. India remains a staunch supporter of the rules-based multilateral trading system and will do its best, to address the challenges that the WTO faces.

10. I thank you, Chair!