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India to take up trade protectionism measures with US: Prabhu

India to take up trade protectionism measures with US: Prabhu
March 20
20:23 2018

New Delhi, March 20 (IANS) India on Tuesday said it will bilaterally take-up the issue of recent trade protectionism measures imposed by the US.

Addressing a press conference after the Informal WTO Ministerial Meeting here, Minister of Commerce and Industry, and Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu said: “Every country will have a different response to it. We are obviously not the largest exporter of steel or aluminium to the US….”

“We will take it up with the US, with whom we have a huge trade surplus and we have a very good political relationship. We will take up this with them bilaterally.”

The assertion by the minister assumes significance as recently the US slapped import tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium, unfolding the prospect of an all-out global trade war.

According to WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo, the recent trade protectionist measures by the US have major potential for escalation.

“I have said very publicly, that I am very concerned and I think the institution itself could say the same, because these measures, for whatever reason, have a very major potential for escalation because of the possibility of responses from other partners with trade restrictive measures as well and that, I think, is something we should avoid,” Azevedo said.

“That’s what I heard today, many many countries saying we have a concern with this. We have to proceed very carefully and try to work within the framework of WTO… because I think that’s the only way we can avoid a very disruptive and unpredictable scenario in global trade.”

Further, Minister Prabhu said that “food security” issue was also discussed at the meeting during which “talks were held in a free and frank” manner.

The minister had earlier said that India is a strong supporter and believer in the WTO framework and is strongly committed to see the organisation being strengthened.

New Delhi hosted the largest Informal WTO Ministerial Meeting which began on Tuesday. The meeting was attended by delegates from 52 countries, including WTO Director General Azevedo, who participated in the discussions.

This is the second WTO mini-ministerial meeting being hosted by India, after the first in 2009 and it took place after the collapse of the WTO Buenos Aires ministerial talks in December last year.

The talks at the 11th ministerial conference at Buenos Aires broke down 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.

The US representative to the WTO talks declared in a small group meeting that a permanent solution to the food stockholding issue was not acceptable to America.

Under the WTO norms, a member-country’s food subsidy bill should not breach the limit of 10 per cent of the value of production based on the reference price of 1986-88.

India has been seeking amendments to this formula, fearing that full implementation of its food security programme may result in breaching of the WTO subsidy limit.

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 have a developmental agenda, if in case these dilute the commitment to complete the existing agenda.

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