Thailand replaces its WTO Ambassador after controversial comments on India

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Thailand has decided to replace its Ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Pimchanok Vonkorpon Pitfield, following a strong protest from India over her contentious remarks on New Delhi’s rice procurement program. 

Pitfield, who made remarks during a WTO consultation meeting accusing India of using the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for rice procurement not for public welfare but to capture the export market, will be recalled after the ongoing 13th ministerial conference.

India formally registered its protest with the Thai government and expressed displeasure to WTO Chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the agriculture committee chair from Kenya, and the UAE. The Thai Ambassador’s replacement was prompted by India’s objections, citing inappropriate language and behaviour.

The Thai Ambassador had criticized India’s rice procurement policy during the 13th Ministerial Conference of the WTO, asserting that India’s program to buy rice at MSP through the public distribution system was a strategy to capture the export market rather than serving the public. In response, India expressed its strong opposition to the comments, leading to the replacement of the Thai Ambassador.

The facts presented by Pitfield were deemed inaccurate, as the Indian government clarified that only about 40% of the paddy produce is procured by the government to fulfill food security commitments. India, a major player in rice exports, has faced accusations on international platforms that its public stockholding distorts global market prices. India, however, remained the largest rice-exporting country globally from 2018 to 2022.

The replacement of the Thai Ambassador highlights the sensitivity of international trade discussions and the need for diplomats to maintain a constructive dialogue.