Nirmala Sitharama allays fears over WTO talks

By: | Updated: December 23, 2015 12:14 AM

‘The Nairobi ministerial declaration acknowledges that members have different views on how to address the future of the Doha Round negotiations but noted the strong commitment of all members to advance negotiations on the remaining Doha issues'

Seeking to allay fears that the 2001 Doha Development Agenda has been effectively dumped and India got “nothing” at the recently-concluded Nairobi ministerial of the World Trade Organization (WTO), commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday the ministerial declaration noted that development will continue to be at the core of WTO work.

“The Nairobi ministerial declaration acknowledges that members ‘have different views’ on how to address the future of the Doha Round negotiations but noted the ‘strong commitment of all members to advance negotiations on the remaining Doha issues’,” the minister informed the Lok Sabha.

India not only made a firm statement on concluding the Doha negotiations at the closing ceremony on  December 19 but also made a written submission to the WTO director general and the chair of the tenth ministerial Conference, the Kenyan foreign minister, she said.

The minister said India isn’t part of the Information Technology Agreement under which as many as 53 members, both developed and developing nations, have agreed to a seven-year time frame to remove all tariffs on 201 IT products that account for $1.3 trillion of global trade. Such a move is expected to raise global gross domestic product by roughly $190 billion a year. However, India has been opposing the move on fears that such a deal will help countries like the US, China, Japan and Korea which already have a strong manufacturing base in such products, and could hurt India’s not-so-developed domestic industry.

On the introduction of new issues for discussion, the minister stressed that the latest WTO declaration acknowledges differences in views and states that any decision to launch negotiations multilaterally on such issues would need to be agreed by all members. India and some other developing nations have been seeking the conclusion of the DDA before new issues can be taken up, while the developed world, led by the US, has been insisting on broadening the WTO mandate.

As the future of the Doha Round appeared in doubt, India sought and succeeded in obtaining a re-affirmative ministerial decision on public stockholding for food security purposes honouring both the Bali Ministerial and  General Council decisions, she said. The decision commits members to engage constructively in finding a permanent solution to this issue.

India also negotiated a ministerial decision which recognizes that developing countries will have the right to have recourse to a special safeguard mechanism as envisaged in the  mandate. Members will continue to negotiate the mechanism in dedicated sessions of the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session. The WTO General Council has been mandated to regularly review progress of these negotiations, Sitharaman said.

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