Macro Economy

WTO: uncertainty clouds Nairobi meet outcome

Amiti Sen Nairobi | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on December 16, 2015

No consensus yet on export competition, trade facilitation and food security

Clear battle-lines have been drawn at the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) on-going trade ministers’ meet at Nairobi between developed membersand developing countries on the future of the Doha development round and introduction of new issues, with a cloud of uncertainty hovering over the outcome of the Ministerial meeting.

“Apart from the future of the Doha round, no convergence has also been reported on the issues of special safeguard measures, food security and  export competition, despite efforts made by the negotiating group on agriculture to reach some middle-ground,” an official monitoring various meetings at the Nairobi meet said.

Speaking at the plenary session of the meet on Wednesday, trade ministers from both India and China — the two important countries that could determine the fate of the Nairobi meet —lashed out against members rooting for the closure of the Doha development round cherry-picking issues such as export-competition and bringing in new issues not part of the Doha mandate.

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo met Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman after the plenary session to discuss ways in which a break-through could be reached on the sticky issues between developed and developing countries.

An informal meeting of all trade ministers was also called by the WTO to devise ways out of the log-jam.

Developed country members are holding on to their views that since the Doha round has not delivered much in 14 years, it was time to move on and hold talks under a new round which could include new issues such as investment, competition policy, government procurement and environment, the official said.

“It is regrettable that longstanding issues of interest to a large number of developing countries strongly pushed by the G-33, such as an effective special safeguard mechanism for developing countries and  for changing the rules relating to public stockholding for food security purposes,  are being put aside for the future and new issues of recent vintage are being taken up with unusual enthusiasm,” Sitharaman said at the plenary session.

No convergence

The Minister said that while ‘export competition’, an issue of interest to a few farm lobbies such as Australia, the EU and Brazil that want all subsidies to be dismantled, was being pushed as a strong deliverable at Nairobi without any convergence on the matter.

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 launched in 2001.

“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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