World Trade Organization (WTO) Current Affairs - 2019

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India to host WTO Ministerial Meeting of Developing Countries

India will be hosting a World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial meeting of developing countries in New Delhi on 13-14 May 2019. The aim is to discuss various challenges being faced by multilateral rules-based-trading system.

Key Highlights of Meeting

  • Participants: includes
  1. Six Least Developed Countries (LDC), namely Benin, Bangladesh, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Uganda, Malawi.
  2. Sixteen developing countries, namely Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Guyana, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Guatemala, Nigeria, Oman, China, Saudi Arabia, Barbados.
  3. Director-General (DG) of World Trade Organization (WTO), Roberto Azevêdo.
  • The two-day meeting will be an interaction between participants in order to provide an opportunity to Ministers to discuss various issues and the way forward.
  • Purpose: The meeting is an effort to bring developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) together on one platform and to share common concerns on various issues affecting WTO and also working together in addressing these issues.
  • Significance: The meeting is being held at a time when multilateral rules-based-trading system is facing serious challenges. In recent times, there has been an increase in unilateral measures and counter measures by member nations, further leading to deadlock in key areas of negotiations and stand-off in Appellate Body. This is threatening the very existence of Dispute Settlement Mechanism of WTO and impacting WTOs position as an effective multilateral organisation. This current scenario has given rise to demands from various quarters to reform the WTO.
  • Importance: Meeting will provide an opportunity to LDCs and developing countries to build consensus on how to move forward on WTO reforms, at the same time preserving fundamentals of multilateral trading system (MTS) enshrined in WTO.
  • The key discussions will also be about at getting a direction on how to constructively engage on various issues (both institutional and negotiating) in WTO, in the upcoming WTO’s Twelfth Ministerial Conference which will be held in Kazakhstan in June 2020.

About Least developed countries (LDCs)

  • They are low-income countries facing severe structural limitation to sustainable development. LDCs have low levels of human assets and are also, extremely vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks.
  • Currently there are 47 countries designated as LDCs by United Nations (UN). The LDC status is reviewed every three years by Committee for Development (CDP).
  • CDP uses three criteria to identify LDCs –
    1. Gross National Income (GNI) per capita
    2. Human Assets Index (HAI)
    3. Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI)

India ratifies UN TIR Convention in a bid to Counter China’s OBOR

India has become the 71st nation to join the United Nations TIR (Transports Internationaux Routiers) Convention. India’s decision to join the convention is part of its multi-modal transport strategy that aims at integrating Indian economy with global and regional production networks through better connectivity.

In March 2017, Union Cabinet had approved India’s accession to the Customs Convention on International Transport of Goods under TIR Convention. The UN has confirmed that the TIR Convention will enter into force in India in 6 months.

TIR

The Customs Convention on International Transport of Goods under Cover of TIR Carnets, 1975 (TIR Convention) is an international customs transit system under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) with the widest geographical coverage. It is more than a transport convention. At present, there are 70 parties to the convention including the European Union.

The TIR is managed and developed by International Road Transport Union (IRU) which is the world road transport organisation. The TIR procedure facilitates movement of goods under customs control across international borders without the payment of the duties and taxes. It provides a robust guarantee mechanism facilitating the higher growth of Intra-regional trade.

Significance

Accession to TIR will help India in implementing the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement which it has already entered into this year.

With China’s ambitious ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) project, India has no other option other than to join TIR if it wants to be counted as a serious rising power. China is already a TIR member.

Accession to TIR will ensure enhanced security in the supply chain as it allows only approved transporters and vehicles to operate under the terms of the Convention.

The Indian traders will get access to fast, reliable and hassle-free international system for movement of goods by road or multi-modal means.

It will improve India’s cross-border road transport. On the eastern front, it will help in integrating with Myanmar, Thailand, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. On the western front, it will help in transporting cargo along the International North-South Transport Corridor via Chabahar port in Iran. Further, it will give access to landlocked Afghanistan and the energy-rich Eurasian region.

It can help in implementing the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement by addressing policy incompatibility issues among the BBIN nations.