Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

India rejects attempts by US, others to deny policy space at WTO

  • South Africa and the coalition of developing and poorest nations—ACP group—support India's position to ensure the ‘development dimension’ in global trade
  • US and other industrialized nations want to bring about ‘graduation and differentiation’ among developing countries for availing of special and differential flexibilities in the trade talks at WTO

PARIS : India has firmly rejected attempts by the United States and several other industrialized countries for introducing “differentiation" to deny policy space through special and differential flexibilities for India and other developing countries in the multilateral trade agreements, say trade ministers.

At a closed-door informal meeting of select-trade ministers in Paris on 23 May, India reiterated that it “cannot agree to any approach which undermines the centrality of the development dimension in the WTO". South Africa, and the representative of the biggest coalition of developing and poorest countries called the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific) group supported India's position to ensure the "development dimension" in global trade.

The US and other industrialized countries seem determined to bring about “graduation and differentiation" among developing countries for availing of special and differential flexibilities in the current and future trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization.

The US deputy trade representative Ambassador Dennis Shea told his counterparts at the Paris meeting that Washington will pursue its proposal for differentiating developing countries to ensure that leading developing countries such as India from availing special and differential treatment flexibilities in the current and future trade negotiations, said a participant, who asked not to be quoted.

India, which is facing a barrage of trade disputes because of subsidies provided to its farmers and increasing import duties on information and technology products, is being told by the US and its partners that New Delhi cannot avail policy space that is made possible through special and differential treatment (S&DT) flexibilities for developing countries.

The Modi government which will retain reigns for the second time in New Delhi faces a grim battle on the trade front as the big boys in the global trading system led by the US are saying that New Delhi cannot avail policy space for industrialization in several sectors.

In response to the stand taken by the US and other industrialized countries at the meeting, India maintained “the reality remains that developing countries continue to face formidable challenges in integrating with global trade and in addressing their development goals".

India urged the US “to refrain from this divisive debate now and instead focus on strengthening the WTO and reviving the negotiating agenda". The reform proposals by US and its partners lack balance while pushing “for one-sided narrative with disregard for issues of importance and concern to developing countries", Wadhawan maintained.

“WTO reform initiatives must keep development at the centre, promote inclusiveness and non-discrimination, build trust and address the inequalities and glaring asymmetries in existing agreements, which are against the interest of developing countries," India argued at the Paris meeting.

Moreover, the Indian official maintained, “the first priority for us should be to address the ongoing impasse in the Appellate Body with a sense of urgency to launch the process of filling up the vacancies before December 2019."

According to the Indian official, “any new disciplines (for fisheries subsidies) must also consider the capacity constraints of developing countries in conducting regular stock assessment based on the best scientific evidence available to them."

He warned against the recent US-Australia proposal for capping fisheries subsidies at the current level, saying “the proposed new approach of capping of subsidies will unfairly impact developing countries and it will reward the big subsidizers by giving them higher caps, and thus create a permanent asymmetry."

“Further, the capping proposals do not have an S&DT component, thereby denying much needed policy space to developing countries to develop their livelihood oriented fisheries sector," the Indian official maintained.

According to the Indian official, “subsidies, both specific or non-specific, have the same adverse effect on sustainability of fish stock." “The attempt by some members to discipline only specific fuel subsidies will result in a large proportion of operating cost subsidies being left out of the disciplines," he argued.


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