India got “nothing” at the recently-concluded ministerial of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Nairobi and all contentious issues, including re-affirmation of the 2001 Doha Development Agenda (DDA), food security and special safeguard mechanism (SSM) — continue to persist as they were, analysts and civil society members said on Monday, criticising the government for its inability to extract any meaningful concessions from rich nations.
The country not just got nothing, it also had to cede its ground on specific areas, including on removing subsidies on farm exports, as desired by developed nations, according to Biswajit Dhar, a WTO expert and a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University. India couldn’t even manage to get any commitment on the reduction in the massive trade-distorting farm subsidies (at the production level) given by developed nations such as the US and the EU, he added. Already, facing resistance from WTO members like Australia, the government has scrapped direct export subsidies on raw sugar, which was being given even in the last season ending September 30 to improve cash flow of mills and enable them to clear cane arrears. Moreover, its contention that new areas shouldn’t be a part of the mandate before the Doha negotiations were concluded were also not accepted by rich nations.
While there was no commitment to re-affirm the Doha round in the final WTO text, broadening the mandate to include new issues — as sought by the developed countries — is “an indication that the US and the EU will now aggressively push for elements from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) into the WTO agenda”. In such a case, India could be on the backfoot once again, argued Dhar.
Since all the issues contained in the final text, except a call for re-affirmation to the DDA, were agreed to by consensus, it’s obvious that not many (even developing nations) may have supported India in its demands, forcing it to give in in the last moment so that it’s not seen as an obstructionist, said analysts. So what was clear was that India needed to invest very heavily in building a solid coalition of nations at the WTO and come up with a medium-term and long-term strategy to be able to firmly push their collective agenda.
SP Shukla, former finance secretary and previous GATT ambassador, said: “From a reading of the declaration, it is clear that the ‘development mandate’ of the Doha Round has been thrown out since there is no unanimity on the existing Doha structures and architecture.