Special and differential treatment for developing countries like India will figure prominently in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 12th Ministerial Conference meet in June in Kazakhstan. The Ministerial Conference is the highest decision-making body of the 164-member WTO. Trade ministers of all the member countries participate in the deliberations. The 12th Ministerial Conference will take place from June 8-11 this year at Nur-Sultan in Kazakhstan. This time, besides fishery subsidies, special and differential treatment and investment facilitation will figure in the meeting.
  1. As part of reforms at the WTO, the US wants the formulation of some guidelines that countries with high economic growth are prevented from taking benefits of special and differential treatment (S&DT), which is meant for developing and poor nations.
  2. The S&DT allows developing countries to enjoy certain benefits, including taking longer time periods for implementing agreements and binding commitments, and measures to increase trading opportunities for them. Currently, any WTO member can designate itself as a developing country and avail these benefits.
  3. The US had submitted its suggestions to the WTO that states that self-declaration puts the WTO on a path to failed negotiations and it is also a path to institutional irrelevance.
  4. India is of the view that the matter needs to be negotiated comprehensively in the WTO and a consensus-based decision needs to be taken on S&DT.
  5. Further, on fishery subsidies, India wants an equitable and balanced outcome in the negotiations as the country provides support to its small and marginal fishermen who depend on the sector for sustenance. 
  6. The Agreement Establishing the WTO recognizes the need for positive efforts to ensure that developing countries, and especially those that are least-developed, share in the growth of international trade. 
  7. The Ministerial Conference, which is attended by trade ministers and other senior officials from the organization’s 164 members, is the highest decision-making body of the WTO. 
  8. Under the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO, the Ministerial Conference is to meet at least once every two years.
  9. The official NGO Centre at the 12th Ministerial Conference, to be held from 8 to 11 June, is located in the Hilton Astana at Sauran Street 46, Nur-Sultan
  10. Its facilities are only available to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are accredited to the Ministerial Conference.