India has objected to the push by developed countries including Singapore and New Zealand seeking permanent tariff liberalisation on a range of products such as ice cream and cut flowers in response to the temporary Covid-19 crisis terming it a “thinly-veiled bid” to use the crisis as an opportunity to gain market access for their exporters. New Delhi also told the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it cannot agree to permanent tariff concessions on medical products, which is a nascent domestic industry.
  1. The narrative-push by some WTO members to seek permanent tariff liberalisation on a range of products in response to a temporary crisis, appears to be a thinly-veiled bid to use the crisis as an opportunity to gain market access for their exporters, India said.
  2. India also said developing countries seeking to shore up manufacturing capacity of medical products will require tariff protection for their nascent domestic industry. Further, job losses in many service sectors have to be compensated elsewhere.
  3. Therefore, India, like many other developing countries, cannot agree to permanent tariff concessions, and a dilution of the tariff bindings that we have paid for in the Uruguay Round, it said. It also pitched for the use of TRIPs flexibilities to ensure access to essential medicines, treatments and vaccines at affordable prices.
  4. If additional temporary flexibilities are required to guarantee this fundamental objective, so be it, India said. Along with the flow of vital goods, the pandemic has also highlighted the need for ensuring easier cross-border movement of medical professionals and the need for multilateral initiatives.
  5. Referring to the growing narrative that seeks to prohibit use of export restrictions on medical and agricultural products, India stated that developing countries being unable to match the deep pockets of buyers in developed countries will see these products vanish in times of shortage.
  1. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations. 
  2. The WTO officially commenced on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, signed by 123 nations on 15 April 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which commenced in 1948. It is the largest international economic organization in the world.
  3. The WTO deals with regulation of trade in goods, services and intellectual property between participating countries by providing a framework for negotiating trade agreements and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants' adherence to WTO agreements.