WTO talks conclude, India feels short changed

India expresses deep disappointment over Nairobi Ministerial Declaration saying its concerns were not addressed adequately

D. Ravi Kanth
Updated19 Dec 2015
Trade minister Nirmala Sitharaman delivering her statement at the plenary session of WTO&#8217;s 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi. Photo: PTI<br />
Trade minister Nirmala Sitharaman delivering her statement at the plenary session of WTO&#8217;s 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi. Photo: PTI

Nairobi: The last minute delay notwithstanding, deliberations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) concluded successfully on Saturday with the acceptance of the final draft of member nations, but left developing countries convinced that once again the agenda of the developed countries had prevailed at their expense.

However, the developing countries, despite their deep reservations, didn’t hold off in endorsing the document—the final draft Nairobi Ministerial Declaration (NMD). If any member rejects the draft Declaration, then there can be no outcome.

India expressed deep disappointment over NMD saying its concerns were not addressed adequately. More importantly, the NMD which was finalized after five days of hectic negotiations failed to incorporate New Delhi’s core demand for reaffirming the continuation of Doha Development Agenda trade negotiations.

At the final plenary meeting, India’s trade minister Nirmala Sitharaman made sharp interventions over the manner in which the final declaration ignored the points raised by India.

The final draft also gave an opening for new issues by saying “some wish to identify and discuss other issues for negotiation; others do not.” India had all along opposed discussing new issues without finishing work on the outstanding issues of the Doha DDA negotiations.

The draft Nairobi deliverables on agriculture contained decisions for an accelerated work program on special safeguard mechanism (SSM) and the public stockholding programs for food security. But these two decisions are insignificant when viewed with the manner in which the DDA is buried, said an official familiar with the discussions but asked not to be identified.

The draft NMD and the Nairobi deliverables on agriculture was adopted at meeting at the Kenyatta International Conference Center.

After marathon meetings among the United States, the European Union, China, India, and Brazil, the chair for the conference Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for foreign affairs, issued a five page draft ministerial declaration that largely reflected the US’ demands while brushing aside India’s demands, an Indian official conceded, while preferring anonymity.

The operational paragraphs concerning how members are going to deal with the DDA negotiations are contained vaguely with little legal effect in paragraphs 30 and 31 of the draft final ministerial declaration.

It said, “we recognize that many Members reaffirm the Doha Development Agenda, and the Declarations and Decisions adopted at Doha and at the Ministerial Conferences held since then, and reaffirm their full commitment to conclude the DDA on that basis. Other members do not reaffirm the Doha mandates, as they believe any approaches are necessary to achieve meaningful outcomes in multilateral negotiations. Members have different views on how to address the negotiations. We acknowledge the strong legal structure of this Organization.”

In effect, the final draft ministerial statement maintained that there is no consensus among members about the reaffirmation to continue the DDA negotiations. It then goes on to add, “Nevertheless, there remains a strong commitment of all Members to advance negotiations on the remaining Doha issues.”

But there are no ”Doha” issues, said a South Asian trade official, suggesting that there are only the Doha Development Agenda issues or the Doha Ministerial Declaration of November, 2001.

“I am absolutely disappointed that the ministerial declaration does not mention the Doha round. Doha has been very dear to us. I was surprised that the new amendment we had given has not gone through,” said Sitharaman.

By not including the words DDA or the Doha Ministerial Declaration of 2001 in the final draft ministerial declaration, the United States, the European Union, and Japan succeeded in kicking the can down the road by forcing WTO members to carry their fight in Geneva.

“The fight over Doha will now be carried in Geneva,” said a South American trade official.

In short, the US, the EU, Japan, and other industrialized countries succeeded in imposing their language and consequently their view in the final draft.

At Nairobi early this week, India, China, South Africa, Ecuador, and Venezuela along with the African Group issued a joint statement in which they proposed the language saying that “ we reaffirm the Declarations and Decisions we adopted at Doha, and all subsequent Declarations and Decisions and reaffirm our full commitment to give effect to them.”

At the meeting Group of Five countries throughout Friday night, there were several stalemates on the issue of reaffirmation of DDA negotiations and also on the Nairobi deliverables in agriculture.

During the closed-door meeting of the five countries, which was chaired by the chair Mohamed and assisted by the WTO chief Roberto Azevedo, India and China put up a fight to ensure that there is clear language to reaffirm the continuation of the DDA negotiations, said a person familiar with the meeting.

According to the same person, eventually the US and the EU had their way and in effect have successfully buried the DDA negotiation.

The draft Nairobi Ministerial Declaration along with the draft decisions on agriculture will come up for a final decision in about two hours before the full plenary meeting.

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