New Delhi, 22 August:
Countries and global bodies must take decisions in an urgent manner to address ever-increasing challenges: Goyal
At a time when global trade negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have been deadlocked for a long time, the Union Commerce and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said countries and international bodies need to take decisions in an urgent manner to address the ever-increasing challenges including those related to technology and development as well as the ones arising from protectionist steps.
He was speaking at an international conference on South-South Cooperation (SSC) jointly organised by RIS, Ministry of External Affairs, the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), Forum for Indian Development Cooperation (FIDC) and the Network of Southern Think-tanks (NeST) in the national capital on Thursday. SSC refers to the cooperation between developing countries on sharing and exchange of knowledge, resources and technology.
“The bane of decision-making at the governmental and international level today is that the system is not shaken enough to take quick decisions despite the fast pace of developments happening across the world... Even in trade negotiations, we have been stranded due to niceties and diplomacy. We need to ensure that dialogues such as the one on SSC end with tangible outcomes like what the international community did in the case of the Paris Agreement (on steps to curb global warming),” Mr Goyal said here in the national capital.
Referring to the ongoing efforts to reform the WTO, the Minister said the reforms of the global trade body have to be “holistic and comprehensive and not selective on the basis of the interests of a few countries.” Indirectly citing the efforts by some developed countries to dilute the Special and Differential Treatment (S and DT) provisions in WTO agreements (that accord developing nations certain special rights including ‘longer periods to phase in obligations and more lenient obligations’) by seeking to prevent developing countries such as India from availing the S and DT benefits, Mr. Goyal said it would be rather unfair to treat countries including India with a very low GDP per capita the same way as developed countries with high GDP per capita. The Minister was also critical of the “hypocrisy” of developed nations that claim to be open economies but bring in non-tariff barriers in a clandestine manner to prevent the developing nations from obtaining real market access. These rich countries then ‘sermonise’ the rest of the world on the benefits of being an open economy including by eliminating tariffs, he said.
Terming SSC as a “powerful concept”, Mr Goyal said it offers significant possibilities to take forward Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to build trust and forge deeper ties among developing and poor countries. The conference aims to find ways to scale up SSC and endeavours to evolve an impact assessment framework. It also seeks to focus on the diversity of actors and role of institutions in actualising the aspirations of the South. The objective also is to simultaneously engage in exploring the potential of Triangular Cooperation (TrC) - or collaboration with traditional donor nations and multilateral bodies to facilitate South-South initiatives including through funding and capacity building. Among other things, it would also explore the role of global trade and financial governance for inclusive development.
Mr. Jorge Chediek, Director and Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation, UNOSSC, talked about the need to broaden debate on SSC and TrC including on ways to ensure a win-win partnership between the country that gives and the one that receives. Ambassador Mohan Kumar, Chairman, RIS, said maritime dimension will play an extremely important role in SSC and TrC. Pointing to the threats and opportunities arising from Artificial Intelligence and robotics, he said it was important for SSC countries to share experiences and best practices in this regard. Nomvuyo Nokwe, Secretary General, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), said digitization, skill development, integrated coastal zone management, disaster risk management as well as establishing links between universities and research organisations are priority areas for IORA that has developed, developing and poor countries as its members.
The three-day event titled ‘South-South and Triangular Cooperation: Exploring New Opportunities and New Partnerships Post-BAPA+40’ is being attended by a large number of participants from both developed and developing countries, including those representing the UN, OECD, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDB), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), global NGOs such as Oxfam, think-tanks including the South Centre, and universities in India and abroad. The event will also see the launch of two new initiatives including a ‘Think tank-University Connect’ to facilitate in-depth research and greater synergy across international relations, international economics, development studies, and their interface with public policy formulation process, as well as a ‘Young Scholars’ forum on SSC to engage increasing number of young researchers from the South in unravelling the complexities and pluralities of SSC. There will also be a panel discussion on regional issues of common concern in South Asia including on a recent publication titled, ‘Manufacturing and Jobs in South Asia: Strategy for Sustainable Economic Growth’ (edited by Sachin Chaturvedi and Sabyasachi Saha) that aims to examine the structural factors that underlie the persistent mass poverty and extreme inequality in South Asian countries. (ENDS)