India has built strong support for its core demands among a large majority of members for the crucial World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference beginning on Sunday (10 December) in Buenos Aires, said several trade envoys who asked not to be identified.

Countries have rallied behind New Delhi in agriculture, services, safeguarding special and differential flexibilities, and against differentiation, they said.

There is also solid support for India’s opposition on some issues such as tweaking the mandate for electronic commerce to launch negotiations, and investment facilitation and disciplines for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), said an African trade envoy who asked not to be identified.

India’s demand for reaffirming the principles for strengthening multilateralism, inclusiveness and development based on the Doha work programme and the centrality of the WTO in the rules-based trading system is supported by a large majority of countries, including some industrialized countries.

However, on fish subsidies, India, which seeks a carve out for its 2 million artisanal fish workers and enhanced special and differential flexibilities, has relatively less support.

Meanwhile, the African Group as well as the Group of 90 countries (Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific) have endorsed India’s demand for a credible and effective permanent solution for public stockholding programmes for food security at Buenos Aires, the African envoy said. “The Buenos Aires meeting must deliver a development-friendly outcome on the permanent solution so to address issues concerning hunger and resource-poor farmers in developing and poorest countries," the African envoy said.

India has demanded a simple and effective permanent solution for public stockholding programmes with reasonable transparency and notifications requirements and without onerous/burdensome safeguard/anti-circumvention conditions. “It is unbelievable that countries which are seeking to impose conditions are not willing to do the same for their farm support programmes," the envoy said.

The Group of 33 countries, which is coordinated by Indonesia and in which India plays a major role, had circulated a proposal on how to arrive at the permanent solution for public stockholding programmes. The G33’s proposal supported by more than 90 countries calls for a credible permanent solution with legal certainty.

On Friday, the African Group issued a draft ministerial statement for reducing farm subsidies in the industrialized countries and for adhering to the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) mandates almost on the lines of what India had proposed, the African envoy said.

More than 90 countries support India’s position on e-commerce, said a South American trade envoy while asking not to be identified.

The draft statement obtained by Mint suggests that “members agree to continue negotiations after MC 11 [11th ministerial conference] in Buenos Aires agree to continue negotiations to substantially reduce trade-distorting domestic supports based on the DDA mandates". “As a first step, and in order to bring about a level playing field, Members with Final Bound AMS entitlements [total trade-distorting support] shall eliminate these AMS entitlements," the African Group said, on the lines of the joint proposal made by India and China.

The failure to address domestic subsidies for cotton in the US and other industrialized countries is contributing to problems of terrorism in the poorest African countries, suggested Mali’s prime minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga on Thursday (30 November) at the WTO’s General Council meeting.

On changing the existing mandate for e-commerce, which is being demanded by the European Union and Japan with other industrialized and several developing countries, India stood its ground that the existing 1998 work program for exploring all the issues must continue without any change.

India’s opposition to investment facilitation and disciplines for micro, small, and medium enterprises is shared by about 100 countries. China along with Argentina are pushing for investment facilitation which is being supported by 45 countries while around 38 countries led by Chile are supporting the disciplines for MSMEs.

It remains to be seen how India would harness the support it has among the large majority of members for securing credible results at Buenos Aires, the African envoy said. “During the last ministerial meeting in Nairobi in December, 2015, India failed to live up to the expectations its prime minister raised during the meeting of African leaders meeting in New Delhi in November, 2015," the envoy said.

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