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Agenda Item 12: ‘Strengthening the WTO to promote Development and Inclusivity’ – Communication from the African Group, Cuba and India (WT/GC/W/778/Rev.3)

General Council Meeting

December 16-18, 2020

Statement by India – Delivered by Ambassador & PR to the WTO

Agenda Item 12: ‘Strengthening the WTO to promote Development and Inclusivity’ – Communication from the African Group, Cuba and India (WT/GC/W/778/Rev.3)

Thank you Chair. 

We thank all the Members who have taken floor today on our submission onthe WTO reform. The joint communique (WT/GC/W/778/Rev.3)seeks to bring balance to the on-going discussions on WTO reform by reaffirming the importance of development to the work of this organization. The development aspect has assumed all the more significance in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which imposed disproportionate burden on the developing and least developed members, and our reform paper has factored these new challenges.  As I have said earlier “we are facing the same storm, but certainly we are not sailing in the same boat”.

  1. Chair, the broad essence of our reform paper is that any dialogue on WTO reform agenda should be balanced and includes issues of importance to developing countries. Itshould not erode the core principles of consensus-based decision making, non-discrimination and S&D. Proposals that artificially differentiate between developing Members without any regard to the developmental needs; impose punitive strictures for noncompliance with notification obligations; and dilute S&D provisions in ongoingnegotiations, illustrate the lack of balance in the other reform proposals we have seen.
  1. I wish to highlightsome of the components of our reform proposal:



  • Our paper reminds Members that the Marrakesh Agreement recognizes that international trade is not an end in itself, but a means of contributing to certain objectives including ensuring that developing countries and LDCs secure a share in international trade commensurate with the needs of their economic development.
  • The core value and basic principles of the multilateral trading system must be preserved and strengthened, particularly with a view to building trust among Members. These include: disciplining laws and regulations of Members that are inconsistent with WTO rules; preservation of decision-making by consensus and respecting of Art II, III, IX and X of the Marrakesh Agreement; ensuring that JSI’s do not change the fundamental architecture of the WTO; Correcting the imbalances in the existing WTO agreements.
  • The empirical data clearly indicates that the gap in the standards of living between developing and developed countries has not narrowed since the establishment of WTO. In fact, the GDP per capita between developed and developing countries has widened considerably and more than 60% of the world’s poor also live in non-LDCs. Therefore, we reaffirm the centrality of Special and Differential Treatment (S&D) as a non-negotiable, treaty-embedded right for developing Members and LDCs. It is essential to preserve S&D in current and future agreements, for allowing developing Members the necessary policy space. We are not seeking unlimited carve-outs and therefore, any proposalthat deprives developing Members of their treaty-embedded rights would be inconsistent with Members’ obligations. Developing countries must be allowed to make their own assessments regarding their own developing country status.
  • Our paper highlights the important issues in the unfinished agenda of the WTO on development, which need to be implemented and addressed on priority. These include rebalancing the asymmetric rules of the Uruguay Round; strengthening of S&DT provisions; addressing issues related to agriculture, especially cotton, domestic support, SSM and a permanent solution for PSH.
  • A functioning, independent and effective dispute settlement system is indispensable for preserving the rights and obligations of WTO Members. Without such a system there would be little incentive to negotiate new rules.Members have a treaty-obligation to ensure the maintenance of a standing Appellate Body comprising of seven members as per Articles 17.1 and 17.2 of the DSU.Reform of DSM must preserve its essential features namely an independent, two-tier dispute settlement system, automaticity in the launch of proceedings and decision-making by negative consensus.
  • The discussions on transparency& notifications at the WTO should factor the capacity constraints of developing Members and they should not be expected to take on additional notification obligations. We also do not agree to the punitive approaches, as a means to enforce transparency obligations. Chair, developed Members should lead by example in submitting timely and accurate notifications especially regarding their AMS commitments, mode 4 market access commitments, Art 66.2 of the TRIPS Agreement and disclosure of origin of biological resources and associated traditional knowledge in patent applications. Certainly, developed countries cannot complaint of capacity constraints.
  • Finally, developing countries are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has also exposed the fundamental weaknesses in our global system. The profound social and economic fragilities that were already present before COVID-19, have been further exacerbated by the crisis.The trade regime should not penalize developing countries for acting to support their citizens during such an extraordinarily difficult times. Therefore, we demand a moratorium for developing countries and LDCs on trade measures implemented in response to the pandemic.Such a moratorium shall have clearly defined scope and duration.


  1. We look forward to discussing these reform proposals with other members when we reconvene in 2021.

Thank you Chair.