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Under pressure, India readies its stance on new issues at WTO

As it faces immense pressure from developed countries to start a discussion, India has started framing its position on new issues including on ecommerce, small and medium enterprises and investment at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The WTO ministerial meet will be held in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires in December 2017.

Until now, India has vehemently opposed the inclusion of new issues in the multilateral organisation unless the existing one related to food security and special safeguard mechanism (SSM) are resolved. At the last ministerial meeting in Nairobi, developed countries were successful in clinching the deal away from India by allowing new issues to be taken up in the WTO’s mandate.

Developed countries including the US have been pushing for cooperation, information exchange and capacity building for small and medium enterprises. On fisheries, they want to prohibit subsidies granted for illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and a strict mechanism to assess fish stocks which is not easy for developing countries like India. India’s concerns on investment becoming part of the WTO agenda pertain to the definition of investment and the investor dispute settlement mechanism.

E-commerce is the first among the new issues that the developed countries have been pushing to be included in the WTO’s agenda for the next ministerial. Although India has not favoured e-commerce discussions till now, it has begun studying papers submitted to the WTO on the issue to understand the various views.The government is consulting e-commerce companies operating in the country, but the views emerging from these talks are divergent.