Kingdom 'sorry' for offensive remarks made to India in UAE

Kingdom 'sorry' for offensive remarks made to India in UAE

Thailand has apologised to India for offensive remarks made by an ambassador about India's rice export policy during the recent World Trade Organization's 13th Ministerial Conference in the United Arab Emirates, according to Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai.

A written apology had been submitted to the Indian government through its minister of commerce, along with a statement stressing the ambassador's remarks did not represent the Thai government's stance on the matter, he said.

The Indian side had also responded to the Thai government's apology by saying it appreciated the government's prompt action in response to what happened, Mr Phumtham said.

He added the government would like to thank India for accepting the apology, noting both nations would continue their strong relations despite the setback.

Pimchanok Vonkorpon Pitfield, Thailand's WTO ambassador, has been recalled over the incident.

While in the UAE, Ms Pimchanok reportedly accused India of exporting 40% of the rice procured for its domestic consumption, which Indian officials said was factually incorrect.

India's delegation expressed strong disappointment over the remarks and boycotted deliberations at a subsequent ministerial meeting where she was present.

According to a Times of India report, India is the largest rice exporter, ahead of Thailand and Vietnam.

The government recently restricted non-basmati rice exports in a bid to reduce domestic prices, it said.

The report said India has been seeking a solution at the WTO regarding subsidy caps, which are calculated on prices fixed at 1986–88 levels, as prices have breached a ceiling of 10% of production value for permitted levels of support for procurement for its food programme.

The conference in the UAE ended on Saturday with a temporary extension of an e-commerce moratorium but without hoped-for deals on agriculture and fisheries.

The World Trade Organization requires full consensus from all members to chalk up deals.

The UAE chair of the gathering, Thani al-Zeyoudi, acknowledged the shortcomings.

"Despite our best efforts, we failed to agree on some texts which are of great importance to many of our members," Mr Thani, who also serves as the foreign trade minister of the United Arab Emirates, said.

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