WTO negotiations: India secures multilateral victory, upholds principles of fair trade

New Delhi: India, alongside South Africa, has achieved a major breakthrough in the realm of domestic service regulations within the World Trade Organization (WTO), a development for global trade negotiations.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry announced a pivotal win for multilateralism following successful consultations and deliberations within the WTO framework.

By January 2023, a total of 61 WTO members participating in the Joint Statement Initiative on Services Domestic Regulations (JSI on SDR) had submitted requests for certification of their updated General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) schedules.

In response, India, in accordance with South Africa, invoked the S/L/84 procedures to raise objections to these certification requests.

India underscored the importance of adhering to the established multilateral processes within the WTO, emphasizing that the development of disciplines on domestic services is a mandated subject under WTO agreements.

As per the provisions of GATS Article VI:4, the Working Party on Domestic Regulations (WPDR) serves as the multilaterally mandated body responsible for overseeing this process.

India’s objections to the certification requests sought clarity and confirmation on some key understandings-

Certification of updated GATS schedules does not set a precedent for incorporating outcomes in the WTO, including from Joint Statement Initiatives (JSIs).

Additional commitments undertaken by WTO members updating their GATS schedules are without prejudice to the ongoing multilateral work on domestic regulation disciplines.

The additional commitments made by WTO members are to be made available to all members, ensuring non-discrimination (MFN) principles.

These commitments do not diminish the rights or alter the obligations of WTO members not undertaking these additional commitments, read the press release.

Following consultations as per India’s request, the matter was presented to the WPDR for approval in January 2024.

India’s key objectives were reiterated during the meeting and also outlined in the revised certification requests of the WTO members involved.

After thorough discussion, the WPDR agreed on the course of action for those WTO members aiming to include regulations on domestic matters in their GATS schedules as additional commitments.

With the approval of the WPDR and confirmation of key understandings, India decided to withdraw its objections to the certification of the updated GATS schedules of these WTO members.

This outcome, addressing a topic mandated by multiple parties within a multilateral forum, reaffirmed India’s commitment to preserving the multilateral nature of the WTO.

The WTO is a system of rules that aims for fair and open competition. The WTO has 164 member countries, which represent over 98 per cent of global trade.

(With inputs from ANI)




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