​India, China, Africa Group take on developed countries on continuation of Doha round

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on January 22, 2018

WTO’s Nairobi ministerial opens with strong divide between developed, developing nations

India and China -- the important countries that could determine the outcome of the ongoing World Trade Organisation’s trade minister’s meet in Nairobi -- lashed out against attempts being made by some developed countries and farm lobbies to hijack the agenda of the talks by cherry picking issues such as 'export competition' and pushing new items without resolving the older ones flowing from the Doha development round.

Speaking at the plenary session of the meet on Wednesday, trade ministers from both countries spoke against members rooting for the closure of the Doha development round and bringing in new issues which are not part of the Doha mandate.

The African group, representing most of the countries in the continent, also made a strong case for continuation of the Doha round by stating that its "burial’’ in Africa was not acceptable.

Developed country members, including the EU, New Zealand, Switzerland and Australia, as expected, championed the need for moving beyond the Doha round and considering new issues.

Some of the new issues being advocated include investment, environment and competition policy. These countries, and also Brazil, also pushed for a successful pact on export competition to reign in export subsidies.

“It is regrettable that longstanding issues of interest to a large number of developing countries are being put aside for the future and new issues of recent vintage are being taken up with unusual enthusiasm. We cannot continue with the rhetoric of a development agenda without even a reasonable attempt to address issues which are of primary concern to developing economies,” Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

The Minister said that while 'export competition', an issue of interest to a few farm lobbies such as Australia, the EU and Brazil, was being pushed as a strong deliverable at Nairobi where in reality there was not much convergence on the matter, other legitimate older issues to protect poor farmers had been thrust to the background.

"The G-33 had strongly argued the case for an effective special safeguard mechanism for developing countries and for changing the rules relating to public stockholding for food security purposes. These are not new issues. We are disappointed at the cavalier manner in which these issues are being pushed into the future, while there is sudden unexpected zeal to push export competition,” Sitharaman said.

Under export competition, all members are required to take on commitments to do away with all their export subsidies in agriculture goods in a time-bound manner and take measures to check subsidisation of shipments in any form.

The Chinese Trade Minister, Gao Hucheng, in his address, said that there was no basis for some countries to talk about new issues, without concluding the development issues of the Doha Development round.

“If we throw away what we have been discussing for the last 14 years, what will it say about the credibility of the multilateral body,” he asked, adding that the right to development was a basic human right and needs to be respected.

The representative of the African Group, the trade minister from Lesotho, in his speech, said that the developed countries should not internationalise their domestic rules. He added that if the Nairobi ministerial meet did not take political calls on deliverables for the poor, it would be a betrayal of the faith of poor farmers.

Published on December 16, 2015

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