India stands up to US, defends Doha trade negotiations, WTO
Geneva: India upped the ante on Wednesday for salvaging the “development” dimension of the Doha trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization, after the US blocked attempts to finalize a draft ministerial declaration for the next month’s ministerial conference in Buenos Aires, according to people familiar with the development.
The US remained opposed to any language in the draft Buenos Aires ministerial declaration on the pre-eminent role of the WTO for furthering global trade liberalization as well as on the importance of development dimension in the Doha trade negotiations, said a trade envoy, who asked not to be identified.
At a head of delegations meeting on Wednesday, the chair for the WTO’s General Council Ambassador Xavier Carim informed members that the work of the drafting committee is suspended because of opposition from one member.
After the chair’s brief statement, the US deputy trade envoy Chris Wilson took the floor to inform members that the one member being referred to by the chair was itself, the South American trade envoy said.
The US, according to the trade envoy, maintained that it is not able to agree to the draft ministerial declaration because it fails to take on board Washington’s core priorities for institutional reform at the WTO. The US also made it known that it does not agree with the importance attached to the pre-eminent role of WTO under the Marrakesh Agreement, the envoy suggested.
The US and the European Union (EU) also remained opposed to the status of the Doha Development Agenda trade negotiations as they reckon that the Doha negotiations no longer exist, said an African trade envoy who asked not to be quoted.
In a hard-hitting response, India’s deputy trade envoy Aseem Mahajan said India “attaches significant importance to the centrality of the development dimension of this organization”, according to a participant present at the meeting.
“The DDA and related decisions have expressed mandates and all the past ministerial conferences have reinforced the DDA issues and mandates,” India maintained. Moreover, “substantive work has gone into these issues for the past several years and therefore, there should be no hesitation in expressing the DDA in the ministerial declaration,” Mahajan said.
“We also feel there might be differences on the perceived objectives of the Doha development agenda but there is no ambiguity regarding the steps to be taken,” India said. “What has been also worrisome to us is the debate about the relevance of these issues and the difficulties of some members to engage to take these issues way forward,” Mahajan maintained.
The DDA and the development dimension embodying the work programme represent India’s core interests as well as the interests of a large majority of the developing countries, Mahajan said.
“Consequently, we cannot agree for any formulation in the declaration that says the Doha Development Agenda and the decisions taken in the past ministerial conferences are no longer relevant,” India said.
Mahajan said members must not treat the declaration as an end game in itself, suggesting that “many issues stand at the core of our national interests for the forthcoming ministerial meeting,” the African envoy said.
“This fact cannot be casually undone by any one member,” India maintained.
Without mentioning the US and EU, India said actions by some members “would undermine and question the very basis of this organization.”
On behalf of the Group of 90 countries, Rwanda expressed concern over the persistent position of “some members” to seriously undermine “the development dimension of the WTO and the WTO itself.”
Rwanda’s trade envoy Ambassador Dr. Francois Xavier Ngarambe said “the centrality of development in this institution, is the raison d’etre of our Membership”.
“Indeed,” said Ambassador Ngarambe, “we expect that development, in particular Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) provisions, remain at the core of both existing and future WTO Agreements.”
Argentina, which is hosting the Buenos Aires meeting from 10 December, expressed sharp concern over the US decision but maintained that it will continue to work for the ministerial declaration at Buenos Aires.
A large number of countries supported Argentina’s demand for the ministerial declaration. Even though the US remained isolated, it has already made things difficult for anything to be accomplished at the Buenos Aires meeting, said a South American trade envoy.
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