India today sought to counter concerns expressed by the US over special treatment to developing nations by the WTO, saying the country is still home to 600 million poor people and its demand for differentiating such countries is legitimate. Addressing the plenary session at the 11th ministerial conference of the WTO, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu observed that many developed countries have benefited under the GATT rules in agriculture and textiles. Prabhu was responding to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer who earlier spoke of a situation under which new rules apply for a few. “We need to clarify our understanding of development within the WTO. We cannot sustain a situation in which new rules can only apply to a few and that others will be given a pass in the name of self-proclaimed development status,” Lighthizer had said in his remarks at the plenary.
Prabhu responded by saying developing nations’ “are legitimate demands for special and differential treatment for developing countries. It is also noteworthy that many developed countries of today have benefited from long periods of derogation from GATT rules in the area of agriculture and textiles”.
The minister also expressed concern over the way the discourse at the WTO was being deflected by arguments based on GDP of countries. “We are increasingly seeing that the discourse on development at the WTO is sought to be deflected by specious arguments based on aggregate GDP figures. “While in India, we are proud of our GDP and growth rates of recent years, propelled by innovative economic policies of my government, we cannot ignore that India is home to more than 600 million poor people,” Prabhu said.