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India At WTO Ministerial Meet: From Locking Horns To Joining Hands

India At WTO Ministerial Meet: From Locking Horns To Joining Hands

Very rarely does India welcome WTO Ministerial outcomes as robustly as it did for the MC12. The enthusiasm was striking, particularly when seen through the lens of India’s demands. Many of its demands were unmet by the Geneva Package announced by the MC12. In the past, India’s inflexibility has been a major obstacle in reaching major outcomes at the WTO. This time, however, India was wholesomely obliging, staying committed to the cause of multilateral trade, even if it meant returning from Geneva with partly fulfilled demands.

The WTO went into MC12 with an unambitious wish list. The fisheries agreement for checking subsidies encouraging deep-sea fishing was the only deal considered achievable in the run-up to MC12. On this, too, the specter of eluding a consensus was high with India among those WTO members likely to differ. India, while remaining opposed to financial incentivisation of unregulated illegal fishing, was concerned over withdrawing subsidies supporting livelihoods of poor fishermen. Such subsidies, it argued, required liberal phase-outs—a condition to be absorbed within the ‘special and differential’ caveat of the WTO. The eventual decision remains silent on phase-outs. But India did not object. The fisheries agreement was the only long-term decision that MC12 was able to deliver. The remaining issues on which decisions were arrived at were either responses to recent developments (e.g., IP waiver on COVID19 vaccines, exports for the World Food Programme) or continuing old arrangements (e.g., moratorium on e-commerce). On all these subjects, India’s perspectives were specific and at variance with several other members, colouring it as a potential deal-breaker in the run-up.

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The temporary IP waiver for allowing developing country…

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