WTO risks irrelevance if hears only rich nations: Prabhu

New Delhi, Dec 19 : Following the 11th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Buenos Aires that concluded without an agreement, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu said on Tuesday the multilateral body risked becoming irrelevant if it only focuses on issues of interest to developed world.

Addressing a Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) sponsored conclave here on the services sector, Prabhu said that India would soon be organising a multilateral ministerial meeting to discuss moving ahead after the collapse of the Buenos Aires talks.

"We are shortly organising a major conclave in India following the disappointing end to the WTO's 11th ministerial," the Minister said.

"If we only discuss issues of interest to a handful of developed countries, then a multilateral body like the WTO, with a majority of developing countries, will become irrelevant," he said.

The talks at the 11th ministerial conference broke down last week as the US reneged on its commitment, along with other countries, to find a permanent solution to the issue of public food stockholding by members of the multilateral trade body.

At the Buenos Aires ministerial, India continued to press for the reduction of farm subsidies by developed countries and resisted inclusion of new issues on the negotiating table like e-commerce and investment facilitation into the ongoing Doha Round of talks that has a developmental agenda in case these dilute the commitment to complete the existing agenda.

Prabhu said that a ministerial exercise is currently underway to project an estimate of the percentage of global trade required as a proportion of world GDP in order to draw up a strategy to realise such trading.

"We are in the process of working out how much global trade would contribute to world GDP (gross domestic product)," he said.

"Once we have a quantification of the GDP and of the proportion in it of global trade, then we can have a strategy in place, including the role of multilateral and bilateral agencies," he added.

Given India's competitive strength in services, this sector should be the focus, Prabhu said.

India is pushing for trade facilitation agreement on services on the lines of the historic agreement on merchandise concluded by the WTO.

The Minister also said India is currently preparing a country-wise strategy for exports identifying new markets, which the government would facilitate through signing multilateral, as well as bilateral, agreements.

Citing the example of India's IT exports that annually amount to around (Dollar) 115 billion, Prabhu said the search for newer markets that are less competitive than in the developed world had recently taken him to many South American countries where he had received enthusiastic response.



Source: IANS