'US supports WTO, wants some reforms in functioning'

US President Donald Trump showing his signature on Section 232 proclamations on steel and aluminium imports on 8 March

Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu welcomed Directorate General of WTO Roberto Azevedo, and ministers and delegates from around 50 countries to New Delhi for attending the Informal WTO Ministerial Meeting on 19-20 March.

On the subsidies provided by India to the agriculture and fisheries sectors, J.S. Deepak, India's ambassador and permanent representative to the WTO, said India still has many marginal farmers, and 600 million people in the country still earn only $2 a day.

Azevedo said while there are encouraging trends in global trade in terms of increased export orders, the recent protectionist moves by some members can cast a shadow on the positive trade outlook. The WTO director-general is here for a mini-ministerial meeting.

In the absence of Ministerial guidance at the Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC 11) that took place in December past year in Buenos Aires, it is hoped that the meeting in New Delhi will provide an opportunity for ministers to explore in greater detail options on different issues for re-invigorating the WTO.

Talking to reporters, Azevêdo said the mini-ministerial meeting will be useful for carrying forward the mandate of the multilateral trade body.

"This is a moment we are facing many challenges inside and outside WTO", he said.

"We will try to have an open and honest conversation at the informal WTO meeting (hosted by India). We have the dispute settlement system compromised by a blockage in the appointment of appellate members and this will be the focus of conversations in New Delhi", Azevedo added. The US has blocked appointment of these members, which would hamper its functioning.

"The cultural programme was an ice-breaker for tomorrow's informal discussions", a commerce ministry statement said. Major WTO members including the United States, the EU, China, Brazil, Australia, Russia, New Zealand and South Africa are among the over 50 members invited to the meet.

It will look at the issues both at the negotiating table and also in other areas.

The four-day conference in Argentina, which ended without a ministerial declaration or any substantive outcome, did manage to make some feeble progress on fisheries and e- commerce by agreeing to work programmes.

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