Macro Economy

WTO Director-General hints at inclusion of new issues in talks

Amiti Sen Nairobi | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on December 15, 2015

Setting the tone Director-General of the World Trade OrganizationRoberto Azevedo and Kenyan Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary AminaMohamed at the opening of the summit REUTERS

Success of Paris climate change meet should inspire Nairobi ministerial, says Azevedo

  The World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevedo hinted at the need for inclusion of new issues for negotiations at the multilateral forum to keep the relevance of the organisation alive — a setback for India that is trying to stop developed countries from introducing new items in the agenda.

“A fundamental achievement here in Nairobi would be for negotiators to go out with renewed confidence and a common view for the future. And that vision has to be about not just focussing on issues on the table but looking around, looking at the world and looking at what we have around us, and begin to discuss these things and talk about these things,” Azevedo said at a press conference on Tuesday — the first day of the WTO Trade Ministers’ meeting in Nairobi.

 While Azevedo did not spell out what the new issues could be, there are attempts being made by several developed countries, including the US and the EU, to introduce items such as investment, competition policy and environment. 

Attempts are also being made by developed countries to redefine classification of WTO members to separate emerging nations such as India and China from other developing countries.

Separate category mooted

“Some countries have proposed that there be a separate category for countries like India and China. We are naturally opposing it as we too have a large number of poor despite high growth rates,” an official participating in the meet said.

Trade Ministers from 162-member countries are in Nairobi trying to deliver an agreement on a package of identified issues and decide what to do with the remaining issues of the Doha development round launched in 2001.

 US Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman has officially stated that it was time to bury the Doha agenda and move ahead.

  “We hope the development promise of DDA can be delivered in this 10th ministerial conference. We should be inspired by the Paris agreement. Lift our sights and aim to achieve an agreement,” Moore said.

The issue of special safeguard measure (SSM) for protecting farmers in developing countries and LDCs against import surges as well as food security through public distribution programmes, the two issues India has been strongly espousing, were listed by the DG among issues where he thought an agreement was possible.

“When we left Geneva, negotiators were still working on finalising a deal that could include steps in agriculture and food security and measures to improve transparency in some WTO agreements areas.  A number of steps for special and differential treatment for developing and LDCs and a package for LDCs are also being worked out,” he said. India, however, is firm about not allowing negotiations on new topics as long as the Doha agenda remains unfulfilled.

Trade Ministers should draw inspiration from the climate change meet in Paris that recently delivered a pact despite huge differences in positions held by member-countries, the DG said delivering his speech at the opening session of the Nairobi Ministerial.

Agenda for future

Taking on a more direct approach, Kenya’s International Trade Minister Amina Mohamed, who also holds the chair at the ministerial, said that either Nairobi should deliver a negotiating agenda for the future or WTO should stop functioning as a negotiating body.

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Published on December 15, 2015
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