WTO Ministerial postponement- Blessing in Disguise Published on: 13 Dec, 2021


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The postponement of the WTO Ministerial Conferenve scheduled for early December on account of Omitron variant scare is obviously unfortunate as it was taking place after 4 years , thanks to the Covid epidemic. However, perhaps not too much of an outcome was being realistically expected at Geneva , the venue of the 12th MC. 
This unexpected postponement, however, provides an opportunity for Membets to act in unison and prove that the multilateral system is still the best bet for a fair, free and equitable trading system. But for that to happen there has to be real engagement, real as against feigned negotiations, willingness for give and take that includes some sacrifice but hopefully a potentially bigger gain for all Members. 

There has been a healthy start to the post MC Date engagement with the Decision of the JSI on Domestic Regulations in Services where the obligations have been incoryas Additional Commitments under GATS schedule of commitments if participants. Similar progress is emerging in JSIs on Investment Facilitation and MSMEs. Progress in the last JSI on E Commerce has been understandably slower , given wide divergences in positions on at least some major issues as well as the issue of policy space not being lost for developing countries.

There are possibilities of agreement on Fisheries Subsidies if the Special and Differential Treatment for developing countries like India with a huge number of small artisanal fishermen where it has a Livelihood dimension can be sorted out satisfactorily. The permanent solution to the Peace Clause for foo security issues could be another possibility, despite lack of full engagement by one key Member.

There could be some understanding on the Moratorium on Customs Duties for Electronic Transmissions, without the need to make it permanent or broaden its scope to include all E Commerce transactions given the legitimate fear of potential loss of government revenues for many developing countries. In a post COVID world where significant public health expenses are still required for an extended period, enhancement of government revenues are in fact welcome for all. Therefore, the earlier practice of a moratorium for 2 years till the next MC is perhaps the only fair and realistic solution. 

Most important, the trust deficit in WTO must be put aside in the interest of global cooperation and collaboration in this difficult post COVID scenario and the opportunity provided by the MC postyshould not again be frittered away by Members for narrow national interests but in fact, pave the way for broader global gains. Choice is of the Membets to make it either Win Win or hopefully not Loss Loss!



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