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26th February 2024 (12 Topics)

WTO's MC13

Context

The World Trade Organization's 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) commenced recently in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

What are key-priorities for India?

  • India's primary task is keeping non-trade issues outside the ambit of the WTO.
  • The key priorities for New Delhi at this multi-nation platform.

Food security

  • India will maintain its stand of refusing to discuss issues related to agriculture at the ministerial-level meeting of the WTO, unless a permanent solution is found to public stockholding for food security.
    • WTO members have expressed concerns over India's minimum support price (MSP) scheme for key agricultural products and export restrictions on commodities such as rice.

Poor fishermen

  • India will continue to bat for a permanent carve-out for nations that practise low-income fishing in a bid to protect the livelihoods of poor fishermen.
  • Apart from this, New Delhi will also push for not restricting countries from giving subsidies to fishermen operating within their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Fishing

  •  The WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, adopted at the previous 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), prohibited "harmful fisheries subsidies, which are a key factor in the widespread depletion of the world’s fish stocks.
  • India had rejected the text on fisheries subsidy agreed upon after MC12 and is proposing a 25-year moratorium on distant water fishing nations to discourage countries from fishing outside their immediate Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO).

Non-trade issues

  • In line with its earlier stance, India will oppose any discussion on what the country considers non-trade issues, including discussions on the environment, MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises), and gender matters at the ministerial conference.

EU’s carbon tax

  • Specifically, New Delhi may prefer discussing bilaterally with the European Union (EU) regarding their carbon tax on imports of steel, iron ore, and cement, rather than at MC13.
  • EU's Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) puts a price on the carbon emitted during the production of carbon-intensive goods entering the EU to encourage cleaner production in non-EU countries.

Digital trade

  • India will push to end a moratorium on customs duties on digital goods at the ministerial conference, saying that such a leeway tends to benefit a few developed nations.
  • India believes that a country should be free to levy duties given that developing nations are losing around $10 billion in revenues due to this moratorium.

WTO disputes

  • India will pitch for revamping the WTO's appellate body (which settles disputes among member nations), that has been out of action since December 2019 due to a decision by the United States to block appointments of new members to the entity.
  • The body was established in 1995 under Article 17 of the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes.
  • It is a standing body of seven persons that hears appeals in disputes brought by WTO members.
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