DDG Zhang inaugurates the new WTO Chair at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade

DDG Zhang inaugurates the new WTO Chair at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade
DDG Zhang inaugurates the new WTO Chair at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade

Friday, October 14, 2022

The WTO Chairs Programme (WCP) on 14 October kick-started activities with a new chair institution—the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), led by Prof. James J. Nedumpara.

Speaking at the launch event at the IIFT in New Delhi, WTO Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang said the Chairs Network "provides a unique opportunity for the dissemination of the best negotiating, research, and outreach practices. These enable the effective flow of information between the stakeholders that are involved in negotiations in Geneva and those in domestic policymaking and goal-setting for the economy."

The WCP supports academic institutions in developing countries, both financially and technically, in developing their expertise on international trade law and economics, with a view to supporting WTO members' full participation in the multilateral trading system.

Prof. Manoj Pant, Vice Chancellor of the IIFT highlighted the importance of the advice that the IIFT team provides to the Indian government, especially in the current context where the global economy is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and negotiations are taking place in Geneva on a wide range of issues.

Additional Secretary from the Department of Commerce Amit Yadav said, "The hard work which the team at IIFT has done over time has made them a leading think tank not only within the country but globally as well. The WCP focuses on three main activities – research, academic development and outreach. I am confident that the team's work and the role it has played thus far will be taken forward manifold by the WCP, in particular on the issues that concern India and other developing countries."

Representing the WCP's biggest donor, French Ambassador to the WTO Etienne Oudot de Dainville said: "One of the key objectives of the WCP is to encourage public debate worldwide, among students, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and others. At the same time, exchanges with policymakers and trade diplomats here in Geneva is also important. I congratulate the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, the Centre for Trade and Investment Law, and the Centre for WTO Studies for their work toward these goals which will be crucial moving forward."

Korea's Deputy Permanent Representative to the WTO Jung Sung Park welcomed the IIFT in becoming a new member of the WCP. He said India’s systemic importance and influence "make it well-positioned to shape the global trade narrative in a constructive direction, which means that launching a WTO chair in India is a very welcome if overdue development."

"We applaud the WTO's decision on this," he said. "Indeed, one could not have imagined a more fitting institution in which to launch a WTO Chair. We believe in the vision and potential impact of the Programme to help enhance the long-term sustainability and viability of home-grown knowledge and expertise on the multilateral trading system."

Former Indian Ambassador to the WTO J. S. Deepak and former Chairman of the WTO Appellate Body Ujal Singh Bhatia participated in a panel discussion following the opening ceremony and deliberated on the issues of reinvigorating dispute settlement at the WTO, balance between regional and multilateral trade agreements, and the role of trade policies in tackling macroeconomic crises.

WCP Advisory Board Member Rohinton Medhora pointed out the importance of the IIFT's membership in the WCP. He said India’s trade policy stance "is a key piece in the evolution of the global trade governance, and the IIFT is a central player in this field. I am thrilled that it will be a part of the WTO Chairs Programme and look forward to seeing the network thrive even more with this latest cohort of entrants."