India to oppose negotiation mandate on non-trade issues

India will oppose any work programme or a negotiation mandate on non-trade issues like environment, gender, and Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

WTO building_tpci

Image Source: WTO

At the WTO’s forthcoming Ministerial Conference (MC13), India will oppose any work programme or a negotiation mandate on non-trade issues like environment, gender, and Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). New Delhi will also not allow the inclusion of external stakeholders like non-government organisations and private agencies, in trade policymaking.

The 13th Ministerial Conference (MC) will be held on February 26-29 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Indian delegation will be led by Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal. 

Developed countries are seeking formal discussions on the non-trade issues, ahead of MC13. They also seek to discuss issues related to women’s economic empowerment in the WTO. According to India, this is a social and domestic matter and there are specialised conventions of the United Nations (UN) to discuss them.

“There is no WTO mandate for work programmes or negotiations on trade aspects in areas such as MSME, environment and gender. India will oppose all attempts on these lines by members, led by rich nations, who want to push these issues without acquiring the consent of all members,” according to an official.

India will persist in upholding its position that trade barriers should not be established in the name of sustainable development and that labour and environmental issues are non-trade issues and should not be discussed at the WTO, the official said.

“There are specialised bodies where these issues should be discussed. These are not trade issues but have a trade implication. So, we will not agree to any work programme. We will agree to discussions to promote sustainable development but our rights and obligations should not be impacted,” the official stated.

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