Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu today impressed upon the US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer the need to agree to a permanent solution on the public food stock holding issue that flows from the Nairobi ministerial. Prabhu met Lighthizer at the initiative of Argentinean minister Susana Malcorra, who is also the chair of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) 11th Ministerial Conference, official sources said. Lighthizer, the officials said, told the commerce minister that the US administration is against the WTO system and not against India per se. Earlier in an oblique reference to India and other developing countries, Lighthizer had accused five of the six richest countries in the world for seeking concessions on the basis of self-proclaimed development status.
“We need to clarify our understanding of development within the WTO. We cannot sustain a situation in which new rules can only apply to the few, and that others will be given a pass in the name of self-proclaimed development status. There is something wrong, in our view, when five of the six richest countries in the world presently claim developing country status,” Lighthizer had said in his address at the plenary. Prabhu had retorted by emphasising that special and differential treatment was “an important component of the WTO… You cannot ignore realities that certain societies have been left behind in the process of development.” Later, the minister called on Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri and held discussions on a wide range of issues of bilateral cooperation. Among others, Prabhu met Johann N Schneider-Amman, Minister of Economic Affairs, Education and Research of Switzerland, and Jorge Faurie, Foreign Affairs Minister of Argentina. Participating in a session on food, the minister underlined the need for promoting food and nutrition security for India’s vast population.