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India wants WTO to be more progressive, more listening to other countries: FM Sitharaman

Sitharaman, during a fireside chat at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said WTO needs to listen to the concerns of developing countries.

India wants WTO to be more progressive, more listening to other countries: FM Sitharaman

Tuesday April 11, 2023 , 3 min Read

India wants the World Trade Organisation to be more progressive and listening to other countries, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said Monday asserting that the WTO needs to give more space to the countries which have something different to say and not just hear.

"I would like the WTO to be a lot more progressive, a lot more listening to all countries, to be fair to all members," Sitharaman said during a fireside chat at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a top American think-tank in Washington.

"In fact, I'm not quoting, in the context of WTO, but it might be useful to recall the words of US Commerce Secretary (sic), Katherine Tai. She had recently spoken and I was very, very impressed, if I can use that word, about what exactly is the traditional trading approach. What exactly is liberalising the market? What would it actually mean in terms of tariff reduction?" she said.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at TechSparks 2022
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"It is true now, countries do look at it. It is a time when countries are looking at what extent to which you would want to have market liberalisation. It has had cost repercussions for the US economy, and that's exactly what the US Secretary Commerce has said. And if that's something that the United States Commerce Secretary feels, I felt the same in 2014 and 2015. Probably my articulation was never getting a space in global media. But many of the global south countries do have the same feeling," she said.

She asked how far would liberalisation go and to what extent tariff reduction would be. According to the minister, India as well other less developed countries in the global south would have the same opinion has the US Commerce Secretary. She asserted that India had already extended quota-free, tariff-free trading policy to all least developed countries.

"So any country, let's say from Africa or anywhere else, the Pacific Islands or countries which are aspirational, low-income countries can export to India without any of these restrictions," she said.

Sitharaman also pointed out how India has grown its manufacturing capabilities.

"We need to look at how India's become remanufactured almost because if you go through the MFN (Most Favoured Nations) route, you end up opening up for the efficient ones in the market, and that may not be your country. Manufacturing abilities of communities have all gone for a toss, not just in India, but I suppose in many countries as well," she said.

The finance minister wonders how a country gets its manufacturing back if it only has to constantly liberate its market.

"India's attempt to talk to the WTO, talk in WTO have all faced with just no moment. The other classic example, which is in the minds of many of the emerging market countries is the electronics transmission related wall. Isn't that since 1998, all of us are sitting and watching that you can't do anything on the customs route for so much that is happening in the electronics business. It's hitting the kind countries very differently," she said.