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WTO fails on major reforms and extends digital tariff ban during meeting in Abu Dhabi | World News – Business Standard

World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiators failed to break an impasse over major reforms on Friday, despite talks stretching deep into overtime in Abu Dhabi, in what some delegates said was a victory of national interest over collective responsibility.

The talks ended early Saturday after five days of negotiations that failed to achieve breakthroughs on agriculture, fisheries and other key issues. However, a moratorium on imposing tariffs on data transmission in electronic commerce was extended for two years, bringing relief to businesses.

“On the big issues that are key to the mandate that the WTO wants to regulate, fisheries and harmful subsidies, that simply didn’t happen because there was no give-and-take spirit,” said a senior European official. .

By the fifth day of the ministerial meeting, most ministers had already gone home, although Indian Trade Minister Piyush Goyal and European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis stayed until the end.

Blame game

Dombrovskis expressed disappointment at the lack of consensus on fisheries, agriculture and broader reforms, blaming India.

“Agreements were within reach, supported by an overwhelming majority of members, but ultimately blocked by a handful of countries – sometimes just one,” he said in a statement.

Goyal, who has been a proponent of these issues, was seen laughing and shaking hands outside a meeting room late Friday as delegates gathered in small groups next to a coffee stand.

India pushed for a long-promised permanent solution to government ownership of agricultural supplies, which some developed countries opposed.

“We have not lost anything. I am going back happy and satisfied,” Goyal told reporters as talks began to wrap up.

Delegates had at times described the talks as intense and controversial, but WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala tried to put a positive spin on a difficult week, saying at a closing session: “We have worked hard this week, we have achieved a number of achieved important results. things and we have failed to complete others.”

India, along with South Africa, had opposed the extension of a moratorium on digital trade tariffs – a move that has overwhelming support from most governments and the business community – but later relented after a call from host country the United Arab Emirates.

WTO ministerial meetings have failed in the past and this year’s negotiations, held in the oil-rich Gulf state of the United Arab Emirates, have exposed rifts between some of the world’s top economies.

Bric’s disagreement

US President Joe Biden’s trade chief, Katherine Tai, said in an interview with Reuters late on Thursday that if the talks failed, fragmentation within the BRICS group would have contributed.

India and China, core members of the BRICS group of countries, are at odds on key issues, including investment. India’s commerce minister joined the negotiations two days after they began and after his Chinese counterpart left Abu Dhabi.

Pacific island states also complained during the talks about feeling marginalized and overlooked by most major powers, arguing that the proposals did not go far enough to protect fish stocks.

But Fiji’s delegate received a standing ovation at the end of the closing ceremony after urging countries to support future fisheries negotiations.

US support for global trade and multilateral groups such as the WTO has been renewed under Biden. But negotiators were aware that former President Donald Trump, who disrupted the multilateral system, could win a second term in the US presidential election in November.

John Denton, head of the International Chamber of Commerce, warned that the meeting’s weak outcomes “should serve as a wake-up call for the need for a more nuanced and constructive debate on the role of trade in society – both locally and globally.” . No country benefits from a weakened multilateral trading system.’

Earlier this week, even the formal acceptance of completed negotiations on improving investments was blocked at an organization where all 164 members must agree by consensus.

A consensus on major deals would have elevated the UAE’s status as a global interlocutor as it seeks to place a greater emphasis on multilateralism and dialogue, a reversal from the assertive foreign policy it pursued a decade ago.

(Reporting by Emma Farge and Rachna Uppal, writing by Alexander Cornwell, Emma Farge and David Lawder; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Kim Coghill, Angus MacSwan, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Deepa Babington and Himani Sarkar)

(Only the headline and image of this report may have been reworked by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

First print: March 2, 2024 | 9:32 am IST