India mulls hosting second WTO mini-ministerial meet next month
New Delhi: India is planning to host the second informal meeting of trade ministers from about 20 member nations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) here next month amid growing challenges for global trade, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu has said.
This meeting assumes significance as several countries are raising questions over the relevance of the global trade body. Many countries are also taking protectionist measures, impacting global trade.
"We are planning this (meeting) in May. We will be inviting about 20 WTO member countries this time," he said.
The US had imposed high duties on imports of certain steel and aluminium products, which triggered a major trade tariff tussle.
Recently, the WTO cautioned that the global trade will continue to face strong headwinds this year and in 2020 after growing slower-than-expected in 2018 due to rising trade tensions and increased economic uncertainty.
India has time and again stressed the importance and relevance of the WTO for promoting global trade.
In March last year, over 50 nations participated in a meeting here which was convened by India to explore options for resolving various issues and re-invigorating the WTO.
That meeting was organised in the wake of talks collapsing at the Buenos Aires ministerial conference in December 2017.
India had appealed to the WTO members to identify common ground for strengthening the multi-lateral trade body amid challenges being faced by it following the deadlock at the Buenos Aires ministerial in December.
Talking about the proposed national ecommerce policy, the minister said the draft is in the public domain and the ministry would look at all suggestions and views.
"Every objections raised by small or big traders, we will take it on board," he said.
Concerns have been raised by certain quarters over some proposals of the draft policy related with data localisation and cross border flow of data.
Meanwhile, Prabhu, who quit railways portfolio in 2017 after two rail accidents, also said initiatives taken by him during his three-year stint are now yielding results.
Prabhu said measures were taken for increasing capital investments, track renewal and improving passenger convenience. "Railways spent Rs 2.75 lakh crore in the first three years (2014-17) as opposed to Rs 3 lakh crore cumulative in first 70 years. So that was the capital expenditure and now you are seeing the results of that," he said in an interview.
He said in the three years, when he was the railways minister, all the backlog of track renewal was completed.
"We almost covered the backlog (of track renewal). So now you are actually seeing the result of that. There is hardly any derailment...We did things to ensure safety," he