WTO members struggled to narrow differences in crucial areas such as agriculture, fisheries, investment facilitation, and the e-commerce moratorium at the on-going 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi on Friday as the meeting extended beyond a day. But India stayed firm in its attempt to protect the livelihoods of its farmers and fishermen and kept issues without a mandate, such as investment facilitation, formally out, sources said.

“India is fighting attempts from various quarters to make it dilute its demands in the negotiations for both agriculture and fisheries subsidies. It is also under pressure to allow the inclusion of investment facilitation for development into the WTO as a plurilateral agreement and extend the moratorium on e-commerce taxes. But so far, it has managed to hold its ground,” a source tracking the ministerial meeting told businessline.

Going by the draft on agriculture that was floated and various members’ reactions to it, there is an attempt to equalise all deadlines, including for domestic support and market access, even though there is a mandate flowing from the Nairobi Ministerial Conference for developing country issues including public stockholding (PSH), special safeguard measures (SSM), and cotton, the source said.

“The EU and the US, it seems, want no deadlines at all. For India, it is vital to get a deadline for PSH, SSM, and cotton, as these have specifically reaffirmed mandates from Nairobi. But Brazil seems to be pushing for deadlines on domestic support and market access as well,” the source said.

India, together with several developing nations, has been demanding that a permanent solution to the problem of PSH for food security be arrived at as a priority so that it can continue its MSP programmes without any concerns.

It has been insisting that other issues, such as domestic subsidies in agriculture and market access, should be negotiated after a permanent solution is provided.

Exemptions in fisheries

“In fisheries, while small-scale fishers are being offered exemptions from subsidy cuts, it is subject to strict conditions. There are, however, various flexibilities being introduced for deep-sea fishers to enable them to continue their steep subsidies,” the source added.

India has also sought a 25-year complete exemption from subsidy cuts for all its fishers so that the fish economy could grow. But this has not been agreed upon, the source said.

“Attempts are also on by the signatories of the China-led Investment Facilitation for Development pact to get it integrated into the WTO as a plurilateral agreement, but New Delhi is putting up a stiff fight opposing it on the ground that it is a joint statement initiative and does not have a ministerial mandate,” another source said.

Many developed countries are also trying to convince India to allow an extension of the moratorium on e-commerce import taxes. India has maintained that an extension has been resulting in revenue losses for developing countries, and there was no consensus on the scope of its coverage.