India, China root for Doha round in WTO agenda

Doha round talks

NAIROBI: Around  47 countries including India, China, South Africa and the host country Kenya  came together to pitch for the Doha Round to remain firmly on the WTO’s agenda and in the process attempted to block moves by advanced countries led by the US to focus on “new issues” without dealing with their concerns. The WTO ministerial meet is taking place in Nairobi from December 15-18.

Releasing a joint statement on the day the first WTO ministerial began in Africa was meant to clearly signal that several developing and poor countries remained united in pushing the Doha agenda.  The agenda included reduction in farm subsidies by the developed countries and allowing more open flow of professionals and FDI across borders in return for lower import duty on agricultural and industrial goods. “We recognize that the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) is a significant multilateral attempt to respond to trade and development interests of developing members and redress the imbalances codified in the rules resulting from the previous rounds of multilateral trade negotiations. We reaffirm the Declarations and Decisions we adopted at Doha, and all subsequent Declarations and Decisions and reaffirm our full commitment to give effect to them,” a joint statement released on December 15 said.

India and other developing countries fear that the Doha round may get buried and new issues such as competition policy, labour and environment may enter the agenda. ” We recognize that a comprehensive conclusion of the DDA with economically meaningful and balanced outcomes will provide impetus to global trade liberalization and facilitation, correct the development deficit in the rules resulting from the previous rounds of multilateral trade negotiations and improve the trading prospects of developing Members, and enhance the primary role of the WTO in global trade governance,” the joint statement said.

Earlier on December 15, applauding Kenya’s attempt to keep the focus on the Doha Round and issues that impact the poor, India spoke about the importance of the outcomes. “The Kenyan president (Uhuru Kenyatta) spoke what many of us have felt… The outcomes are important and it was heartening to know that the emphasis is on agriculture and that livelihoods of people are linked… It is now up to the ministerial to deliver,” India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said. She said that agriculture issues marked a very important component of the developmental debate.

The special safeguard measures to protect farmers from import surges besides seeking a permanent solution, or a change in formula for calculating the support given for food procurement has received a major push from India.

Kenya’s trade minister Amina Mohamed and WTO chief Roberto Azevedo identified the success at the Bali ministerial meeting two years ago, in agreeing to a trade facilitation agreement along with addressing India’s concerns on food procurement, during their address to the members.  However, there was no specific mention of delivering on food security.
“We are not looking at a perfect outcome… Whatever the outcome it will not be as comprehensive and ambitious as when we began the journey,” Mr Azevedo said.

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