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India braces for fresh battle at WTO meet

Sidhartha, TNN | Oct 24, 2015, 05.52AM IST

Trade experts believe that the choice does not fully represent the views of the world that is not aligned to the interests of
the developed countries. (Representative photo)
NEW DELHI: With six weeks to go for the World Trade Organisation's (WTO)
ministerial meeting, the government is bracing for a fresh battle amid indications
that the developed countries may not be keen to keep the Doha Round alive at a
time when they are on a spree to enter into plurilateral agreements such as the
Trans Pacific Partnership and obituaries of the Geneva-based multilateral body
are being discussed.

While objective of the Doha Round, launched in 2001, was to address concerns
related to exorbitantly high trade-distorting farm subsidies and ease the
multilateral rules for services, besides addressing concerns related to cotton
subsidies and access to medicines for the world's poorest, there has been little
headway on the original mandate as the developed countries have blocked any
issues requiring them to readjust their domestic policies. Instead, negotiators
believe that some of them now want the "development round" to be put on the
backburner, if not formally scrapped, and instead begin dialogue on the so-called
21st Century issues such as energy security, climate change and currency and
their link with trade.

Although China may not back the link between trade and currency, it is not seen
to be averse to some of the other issues. China is expected to offer support to
India in countering growing demand, including from some poor countries, to no
longer treat the two Asian neighbours as "developing countries", a tag that allows
New Delhi a longer period to implement decisions and undertake less onerous
commitments.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met top government officials and key ministers
earlier this week to brainstorm for the ministerial meeting and there are
indications that India will take a strong position once again to ensure that the
development aspects are not lost sight and the country's interests are protected.
In any case, the developed countries are only too aware that India can dig in its
heels given the way that last year, NDA government successfully managed to
sweeten the deal on food subsidy in return for agreeing to a trade facilitation
agreement.But the developments in Geneva too haven't provided too much
comfort with observers seeing the appointment of "facilitators" for the ministerial
meeting in Nairobi with some degree of scepticism. WTO director general
Roberto Azevedo has designated Columbian ambassador Gabriel Duque,
Norway's Harald Neple apart from host Kenya's Stephen Karau as facilitators to
consult with members to work out the agenda for Nairobi and the work
programme beyond that. Trade experts believe that the choice does not fully
represent the views of the world that is not aligned to the interests of the
developed countries.

While there is the other challenge of keeping WTO alive in a world where bilateral
and plurilateral trade agreements are getting added to the list, the immediate task
for India is also to ensure that its allies remain intact after some
misunderstanding with a group of African countries in Geneva. In fact, on Friday,
commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman and several African trade
ministers held a round-table on WTO here. "India and Africa are on the same
page on WTO issues. We believe we have a lot in common and can benefit each
other," Zimbabwe trade minister Mike Bimha said, providing some comfort.

Developed countries have blocked any issues requiring them to readjust their
domestic policies. Negotiators believe that some of them now want the
"development round" to be put on the backburner.
India, Africa align on WTO issues
Updated: October 24, 2015 02:48 IST

Africa is no longer just about resources.

They are in favour of multilateral trading systems.

India and Africa said on Friday that the two partners are aligned on the outstanding
issues at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and are in favour of multilateral
trading systems.

The WTO Ministerial scheduled for December in Nairobi will be held for the first
time in Africa where we will be looking for outcomes that will be of interest to both
India and Africa, Minister of Industry and Commerce, Zimbabwe, Mike Bimha said
briefing reporters after the 4th India-Africa Trade Ministers meeting on the eve of
the 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi on October 29.

Union Commerce & Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that a round table
was also held earlier in the day to discuss the outstanding issues at the WTO,
including Indias longheld position on the nations food security policy, especially
the minimum support prices-based procurement from farmers.
At the Bali Ministerial in 2013 too, Africa and India had united in seeking an interim
mechanism for safeguarding minimum support prices to farmers against WTO caps
till a permanent solution is found and adopted. Indias concern is that even though
the interim mechanism has become available indefinitely, the WTO has not made
enough progress in finding a solution to the issue ahead of the Nairobi Ministerial.