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India protests ‘unparliamentary’ remarks by US delegate at WTO

LiveMint logoLiveMint 30-04-2017 D Ravi Kanth

Geneva: India has strongly protested “un-parliamentary” language used against India by an American delegate at a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO), according to people familiar with the development.

At a meeting of the WTO’s committee on ‘safeguards measures’ on 24 April, the American delegate described certain procedural concerns raised by India as being “synonymous with their national identity to be obstructionist.”

The US delegate added, “Shame on you India, shame on you for what you have done over these 13 last months… How many more atrocities does India have to commit on us Members, on the Secretariat, on the Chair, on the WTO,” according to the unpublished transcript of the proceeding reviewed by Mint.

India immediately objected to the “un-parliamentary language” used by the US delegate, saying the US had blocked simple procedural issues, including updating of factual briefs by the WTO Secretariat since 2008.

China, too, said members must use “diplomatic” language while Morocco said India’s concerns should be addressed.

Privately, several members—the European Union, Brazil, Australia, Jamaica, Egypt, and Israel—expressed shock over the remarks made by the US delegate.

Sharp and serious exchanges among WTO members are common but the US delegate’s comments touched a new low.

The matter was serious enough for the Indian trade envoy Anjali Prasad to protest the remarks. She said India will never approve “un-parliamentary” language by any member, including the US.

The US Charge d’Affaires Christopher Wilson said “the US’ delegate was not authorized to speak in this manner and this is not the way the US would like to engage.”

Last year, Australia circulated a room document “for improving the information on notifications contained in the annual reports of the WTO Committee on Safeguards.”

At the April meeting, India wanted to know why Australia had not circulated a formal proposal and whether it was proper to respond to room documents. Under WTO rules, room documents are not treated as proposals that would require members to provide written information.

In response, Australia said if India’s objection was on procedural grounds, it will submit a formal proposal, according to a delegate who asked not to be named.

The US abruptly intervened in the discussion, saying it is disappointed by the polite response by Australia. A US delegate then went on to make unprecedented remarks against India, according to people familiar with the development.

India gave two examples of how the US had blocked updating of factual briefs in the WTO’s Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Council and recently in the Working Group on Transfer of Technology.

The Indian delegate said the US had declared that “decisions cannot be made on room document” to one circulated by India, the Philippines, and Pakistan for dedicated web page on transfer of technology.

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