WTO talks concludes; India says 'disappointed' on Doha issues

WTO talks concludes; India says 'disappointed' on Doha issues

India today expressed its "thorough" disappointment over non-reaffirmation to conclude 14-year-old Doha Round pacts, even as the five-day WTO meeting here managed to win a commitment to allow developing nations to use special safeguards to protect farmers against import surges.

After hectic negotiations for five consecutive days here -- exceeding the scheduled closing by almost 24 hours -- the WTO Trade Ministers concluded their talks this evening without any commitment on rich countries being asked to check their domestic subsidies.

Besides, rich nations refused to budge on their long-standing position of putting the onus on developing countries with regard to duties.

India's trade minister Nirmala Sitharaman said India put across its position very clearly on the table and strongly "protested" against the failure to reach an unanimity on "reaffirmation" to conclude over 140-year-old Doha round to safeguard developing nations' interest.

However, the members of the global trade body agreed on a commitment for giving the developing nations a right to take recourse to Special Safeguard Mechanism to protect their farmers -- a long-standing demand of India.

Lobbying by India and other developing countries also led to reaffirmation to decisions taken earlier at WTO (World Trade Organisation) on the issue of public stockholding.

"We ensured that the Bali and the General Council's November 2014 decision on public stockholding which gives protection to my farmers has been reaffirmed in no uncertain terms.

"The decisions taken here will form the part from where work will begin on it to give a permanent solution," Trade and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told PTI.

"We have done our best that we can in such a situation. Most of the commitments given by the WTO to us are carried forward with complete assurance and we have not lost any ground," she added.

Sitharaman however said that "India is disappointed that notwithstanding a large group - India, China, G33, African Union -- all of us insisting that Doha has to be reaffirmed , the reaffirmation has been divided. We are thoroughly disappointed on this core".

"It was a fight to safeguard India's interest on all these three scores which we have gained according to me," Sitharaman said.

She said the Ministerial Declaration, circulated tonight after completion of the talks, "reflects the division amongst the WTO Membership on the issue of the reaffirmation of the Doha mandate".

"India, along with other developing countries, especially most members of the G-33, LDCs, the Africa Group and the ACP, wanted a reaffirmation of the mandate of the Doha Round.

"While the majority were in favour of such reaffirmation, a few Members opposed the reaffirmation of the Doha mandate. This marks a significant departure from the fundamental WTO principle of consensus-based decision making." "Notwithstanding the difficulty in the negotiations, the draft Declaration reflects India's demand for a reaffirmation from all Members to work towards a permanent solution on public stockholding.

Further, it also provides a Ministerial affirmation that till such time a permanent solution is found, the peace clause shall continue to be in place. The draft Declaration also reflects India’s demand for a Ministerial Decision to develop a special safeguard mechanism for agricultural products that will be available for developing countries.

The five-page declaration at the Nairobi meeting, which also marked the 20th anniversary since the establishment of the WTO, underlined the crucial importance of the multilateral rules-based trading system and reaffirmed the principles and objectives set out in the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO.

The Ministers also reaffirmed "the pre-eminence of the WTO as the global forum for trade rules setting and governance".

"We note with concern the slow and uneven recovery from the severe economic and financial crisis of 2008, resulting in lower global economic growth, depressed agricultural and other commodity prices, raising inequalities, unemployment and significantly slower expansion of international trade in recent years.

"We acknowledge that international trade can play a role towards achieving sustainable, robust and balanced growth for all. We pledge to strengthen the multilateral trading system so that it provides a strong impetus to inclusive prosperity and welfare for all Members and responds to the specific development needs of developing country Members, in particular the least-developed country Members."

Acknowledging that the majority of WTO Members are developing countries, the declaration said, "We seek to place their needs and interests at the centre of the work in the WTO."

It also reiterated that the WTO will remain the main forum to negotiate multilateral trade rules.

WTO also said that the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) continues to offer a means for the settlement of disputes among Members that is unique in international agreements.

The decisions adopted at the Session included Work Programme on Small Economies (Draft Ministerial Decision), TRIPS Non-violation and Situation Complaints (Draft Ministerial Decision), and Work Programme on Electronic Commerce (Draft Ministerial Decision).

On Doha Development Agenda, the declaration said it welcomes "the progress in the DDA" and listed out decisions on Special Safeguard Mechanism for Developing Country Members, Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes, Export Competition and on Cotton.

It also listed decisions on Preferential Rules of Origin for Least-Developed Countries and Implementation of Preferential Treatment in Favour of Services and Service Suppliers of Least Developed Countries and Increasing LDC Participation in Services Trade.

"We strongly commit to addressing the marginalisation of LDCs in international trade and to improving their effective participation in the multilateral trading system," it added.

It also talked about the need to ensure that Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) remain complementary to, not a substitute for, the multilateral trading system.

"We recognise that many Members reaffirm the Doha Development Agenda, and the Declarations and Decisions adopted at Doha and at the Ministerial Conferences held since then, and reaffirm their full commitment to conclude the DDA on that basis.

"Other Members do not reaffirm the Doha mandates, as they believe new approaches are necessary to achieve meaningful outcomes in multilateral negotiations. Members have different views on how to address the negotiations. We acknowledge the strong legal structure of this Organization," the draft declaration said.

"Nevertheless, there remains a strong commitment of all Members to advance negotiations on the remaining Doha issues. This includes advancing work in all three pillars of agriculture, namely domestic support, market access and export competition, as well as non-agriculture market access, services, development, TRIPS and rules.
"Work on all the Ministerial Decisions adopted in ... this Declaration will remain an important element of our future agenda," it added.

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