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No Indian for WTO deputy chief post

August 19, 2013 08:48 IST

For the first time in the last eight years, India would not have any representative for the post of deputy director general (DDG) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Geneva-based body on Saturday named four DDGs from China, Africa, the US and Europe.

WTO director general (DG) elect Roberto Azevêdo on Saturday named Yi Xiaozhun of China, Karl-Ernst Brauner of Germany, Yonov Frederick Agah of Nigeria and David Shark of the US as his four DDGs, who would assume their posts by October 1.

While the WTO is a multilateral platform in which the mandate is to push the agenda of development of all nations, sceptics are concerned that India's own agenda in the global trade deal would be overshadowed.

In 2005, Harsha Vardana Singh from India was named as one of the DDGs. Prior to him, Anwar-ul Huda from the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations was in the coveted position in 1995. Presently, India's ambassador to the WTO is Jayant Dasgupta, who took over the assignment on August 2010.

“Not having an Indian at the helm of affairs in the WTO is quite significant, now that we are pushing for a deal on food security during the upcoming Bali Ministerial.

This is certainly going to impact the sentiments of Indian industry. Also, the world is facing a severe financial crisis with more and more countries resorting to protectionist measures. Hence, it was important for India to have somebody there. In any case, the US has singled us out and labelled us as the 'bad boy' of the talks,” an industry representative told Business Standard.

G K Pillai, former commerce secretary and India's chief negotiator at the WTO from 2006-2009, said “Having an Indian as a DDG always helps because then, one is aware of the latest developments there and how positions can be taken during a negotiating round.”

According to Pradeep Mehta of Jaipur-based think tank CUTS, not having an India as a deputy chief would not make much of an impact on the country’s negotiating agenda. With China being there, the agenda of developing countries would be represented sufficiently, added Mehta.

“As global trade continues to play an important role in economic growth and social development, and as new players, patterns and practices continue to emerge, the role of the multilateral trading system has never been more important. The skills and experience that my deputies bring, would help ensure that we can develop and enhance the WTO’s agenda across its many different areas of work, including at the Bali Ministerial meeting in December, which is an immediate priority,” said Azevêdo.

Image: The World Trade Organization sign is seen at the entrance of the WTO headquarters in Geneva. Photograph: Reuters

Nayanima Basu in New Delhi
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