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WTO meeting calls for inclusivity, development

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A meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Meeting of Developing Countries have called on the multilateral trading system to promote development and inclusivity.

South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies attended the two-day meeting which concluded on Tuesday.

Held in New Delhi, the meeting was chaired by Indian Minister of Commerce, Industry and Civil Aviation of India, Suresh Prabhu.

The meeting noted with concern the multiple challenges confronting the rules based multilateral trading system and agreed to work with all WTO Members to strengthen the WTO with a view to promote development and inclusivity.

In addition, the meeting recalled that the reform of the WTO has been an issue that has been raised for many years by developing countries in recognition of the imbalances arising from the Uruguay Round. It noted that the current multilateral trading system has not been sufficiently inclusive and participatory.

According to the meeting, it has also not assisted to address the concerns of developing countries, in particular the reform of agriculture trade which is still subject to trade distortions that inhibit effective participation of developing countries. This resulted in the launch of the Doha Development Round.

“We must therefore approach the entirety of all discussions and proposals around the reform of the WTO from a perspective of reform for development and inclusivity,” said Davies.

In relation to Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT), the meeting re-affirmed that S&DT is one of the defining features of the multilateral trading system and its provisions are rights of developing countries that must be preserved and strengthened in both the current and future WTO Agreements.

Appellate Body concerns

Davies said concern was also raised in relation to the lack of consensus by the WTO membership in the selection process to fill vacancies in the Appellate Body.

“The immediate priority is settling the impasse with regards to the appointment of members of the Appellate Body without which multilateral trade rules would soon be unenforceable or meaningless. The discussions on new rules becomes redundant if the Appellate Body crises cannot be resolved,” he said.

The Appellate Body is a standing body of seven persons that hears appeals from reports issued by panels in disputes brought by WTO Members.

The Body can uphold, modify or reverse the legal findings and conclusions of a panel, among others.

The meeting also re-affirmed that a functional dispute settlement mechanism is essential to a predictable multilateral trading system.

“It also noted that the ongoing impasse in filling the vacancies in the Appellate Body has weakened the dispute settlement system and threatens to completely paralyse it by December 2019.”

The meeting adopted an Outcomes Ministerial Document – “Working Collectively to strengthening the WTO to promote development and inclusivity” and committed to work collectively with the aim of developing proposals to ensure that the interests of developing countries are reflected in the WTO reform process.

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