Macro Economy

India gears up to save Doha agenda at WTO’s Nairobi meet

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on December 14, 2015

Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Agreement on special safeguard measure appears difficult; US pushes for new chapter

India has a tough fight ahead at the World Trade Organisation’s ( WTO) trade ministers’ meet in Nairobi this week trying to keep the on-going Doha development round alive while thwarting developed country attempts to introduce new issues such as investments, environment and competition policy.

“The US is now openly calling for a closure of the Doha round. Pressure has started building on us. But, we are going to stay put on our demand that the Doha development agenda should not be buried without outstanding issues being resolved,” a government official told BusinessLine.

It will also be difficult for New Delhi to get an agreement on a special safeguard measure (SSM) to protect farmers against import surges and a permanent solution to legitimise its public distribution subsidies that it has been pushing for as a part of the G-33 group of developing countries.

Legitimate demands

“The agriculture committee chairman's recent conclusion that a convergence remains elusive in the two areas is discouraging, but we are going to stand by these legitimate demands at the ministerial,” the official said.

The trade ministers’ meet in Nairobi on December 15-18 will try to reach an agreement on a small package of issues while taking a decision on how to move ahead. India’s initial hopes of using its consent for a pact on export competition as a bargaining chip for SSMs seems to have dissipated over the past few weeks with developed countries not ready to play along.

“It is a grim picture. India has nothing to bargain with. The only thing that the developed countries might be interested in as a give and take is India's willingness to allow introduction of new issues. The country can't afford to do so as it would have adverse political ramifications,” a Delhi-based trade expert said.

The developed countries, however, will try their best to bury the Doha round, that was launched 14 years ago and has a mandate that is favourable to developing countries.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman, in a recent article in a publication, said that there was a need to write a new chapter for the WTO that reflected today’s economic realities.

He added that it was time for the world to free itself of the strictures of Doha.

New Delhi is against the burial of the Doha round and the start of a new one as it wants the WTO to deliver on the promises of a more just and equitable world trade order promised to poorer countries more than a decade ago.

Moreover, it does not want multilateral rules in areas such as investment, competition policy or environment as it could encroach on its sovereign policy making space.

Published on December 14, 2015

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