ABU DHABI: The WTO meeting, which stretched into the sixth day due to wide gaps in positions, ended early Saturday after a long drama.
Well into extra time and after five or six extensions, around 11 PM (local time), ministers finally assembled for the closing ceremony to adopt the outcome document, which was put together after India agreed to the UAE’s request to extend customs duty waiver on e-commerce, covering things like Netflix movies, for another two years.India, Indonesia and later Brazil wanted the exemption to end, but commerce and industry ministry Piyush Goyal agreed to the proposal after UAE trade minister Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi met him on Friday evening.
Just when organisers had start shifting sofas to the side rooms and water dispensers had disappeared as the meeting was about to end, Indonesia sprung a surprise, refusing to accept the outcome document, citing its reservations on the extension, though over 160 members were already on board. At WTO, the outcome document cannot be accepted unless all countries support the text.It took around 45 minutes for things to settle down after the Indonesian side said it did not have the political mandate to support an extension. After a few calls to Jakarta, which meant waking up ministers, the Indonesian side dropped its opposition and trade ministers returned to the hall to clear the outcome document.
Now, it was the turn of commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal to invoke the e-commerce clause – this time to keep some small Pacific island nations from seeking to include fisheries on the agenda. India was opposing an agreement as its interests were not protected.
Post-midnight here, when trade ministers reassembled in the negotiating room, one of the countries first flagged the issue and then said another member nation wanted it. There was talk of a paper suddenly surfacing.
When confronted by India, some officials blamed a senior WTO official leading to Goyal getting up from his seat and walking up to the dais where the UAE trade minister and top WTO officials were sitting. The minister protested the development and took up the issue with WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who suggested she was unaware.
At this point, Goyal said if fisheries was included, India would withdraw its support for e-commerce moratorium, which resulted in the entire membership endorsing the decision early hours of Saturday.





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