Buenos Aires: As the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) crucial eleventh ministerial meeting begins in Buenos Aires on Sunday amid serious existential challenges facing the multilateral trading system, India and South Africa joined hands to forge common positions on five critical issues, particularly for securing an effective permanent solution for public stockholding programmes for food security programmes.
The other four issues in which the two big developing countries will adopt common positions are on the credible outcome on domestic support for reducing farm subsidies, opposition to changing the current electronic commerce mandate based on 1998 work programme, opposition to investment facilitation, opposition to bringing new disciplines for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and reaffirming the primacy of WTO for pursuing developmental outcomes based on the Doha work programme.
“We have a lot of common ground with India and strong positions on some of the issues," Rob Davies, South Africa’s trade minister, said in an interview.
After meeting commerce minister Suresh Prabhu, Davies said there are “many issues and many proposals and without consensus.
“Our assessment is one of the possible deliverables that can be harvested at Buenos Aires is public stockholding programmes for food security," he said.
“Of course, an outcome on PSH (public stockholding programmes) must continue to allow programmes for poor farmers and poor households," he said, adding that South Africa doesn’t have one but poor countries that currently do not have such programmes must not be subjected to restrictions.
Davies said there should be no linkage between an outcome on PSH programmes and reducing domestic subsidies for agriculture as being demanded by some major industrialized and developing countries like Brazil. “Permanent solution is a standalone issue," he said, suggesting there cannot be any linkage with other issues as proposed by some countries like Brazil.
He said South Africa will not agree for an outcome on export restrictions on farm products, a stand shared by India. A group of countries led by Singapore is insisting on including burdensome transparency measures on exports of farm products.
On e-commerce, in which the EU along with some 50 countries are making a strong push for adopting a new mandate that will launch talks at Buenos Aires, the South African minister said they will not agree to any change in the current work programme. India is a strong protagonist for continuing with the current 1998 work programme on e-commerce along with 100 countries.
“We are not supportive of investment facilitation and disciplines for micro, small, and medium enterprises," Davies said. More important, South Africa and India want to ensure that the WTO remains at the centre of multilateral trading system and it must address the unfinished issues in the Doha Development Agenda at the meeting.
“There is a common stand on five issues between India and South Africa," said a Indian trade official, suggesting that the meeting between the two ministers covered lot of ground on how to forge alliance on various issues.
Meanwhile, Indonesia, which is coordinating the G33 group of developing countries, on Saturday issued a strong communique after the ministerial meeting. Prabhu spoke forcefully at the G33 meeting saying that India wants an effective permanent solution at the meeting. “We reiterate the importance of agriculture for food security, livelihood security, and rural development for all developing countries," the G33 trade ministers maintained.