India's stand reinforced at WTO 10th ministerial meeting at Nairobi

India's stand reinforced at WTO 10th ministerial meeting at Nairobi

The deal which was hammered out at the WTO's tenth ministerial conference in Nairobi which ended last week, stresses on the vital importance of the cotton to the least developed countries (LDCs). "And today, once again, we delivered".

Interest of Indian fishermen is protected as India did not entertain the idea of a WTO committee coming and inspecting fisheries.

Sitharaman said the declaration records that WTO work would keep development at its centre. Replying to clarification by members on the issue, Ms Sitharaman said India sought and succeeded in obtaining a re-affirmative ministerial decision on public stockholding for food security purposes honouring both Bali and General Council decisions and "we will not be pulled to any court of WTO" as few members apprehended.

Developing countries, including India, and least-developing countries (LDCs) such as Ethiopia and Rwanda were seeking an end to export subsidies given to farmers by developed countries, which, they said, gave these rich countries an edge in the global market. (The peace clause, which prevents action against a country for breaching limits on agricultural subsidies, was initially till 2017 but will now continue till a permanent solution to this vexed issue is found.)

"I can always sit back and say I have a peace clause for perpetuity..." Developed countries feel that it is no longer fair to continue to treat countries like India and China as developing countries.

The 10th Ministerial WTO was held in Kenya from December 15 to 19.

Negotiations on SSM had started in Geneva after the Hong Kong ministerial but had broken down in 2008 because the United States insisted on extremely high triggers that would allow the SSM to be activated. There are apprehensions that it could be treated as a tradeable commodity under the WTO.

Attacking the government for its stand in WTO, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) termed it as "a serious let-down" and said "we are afraid this government has buckled under United States pressure". The only silver lining is that the developed countries have agreed to phase out farm export subsidies.

Why did the government become a party to the Nairobi Declaration, given that it did not address India's concerns, asked Anand Sharma of the Congress, who was trade minister in the previous administration and is now the deputy leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha. This "peace clause" will remain in place in perpetuity until a permanent solution regarding food stockpiling is agreed on and adopted. "What has happened in Nairobi?", he questioned.

Still, Froman called the Nairobi agreement a "meaningful package". India and African and other developing countries were successful in blocking the introduction of a mandate for these issues, although the working overtime to convince the public and media that the door for these issues was actually opened.

Apart from keeping the on-going Doha Round alive, India wanted to secure an agreement on special safeguard measures (SSM) to protect farmers against import surges.

In the past few decades, instead of multilateral liberalisation involving all countries, the major developed entities - the US, EU, Japan, Canada - have instead been focusing on mega-regional trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership for enhanced access to goods and services. Developing and developed nations are at loggerheads over the "trigger factor" that allows a developing country to raise tariff on imports and the level of tariff that can be imposed. This would effectively have not provided any protection to farmers from developing countries.

Anwarul Hoda, a former civil servant, was the Chief Policy Coordinator in the government of India during the Uruguay Round (1986-'93) and Deputy Director General, World Trade Organisation till 1999.


The minister's other part of the same statement is a kind of letdown for India.

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