India was forced to up the ante at the WTO meet here on Thursday after draft documents released a day before talks end went against its interests on almost all counts.
In the morning it was clear the position on export support for farm goods was not in India’s favour. The draft ministerial declaration too failed to provide clarity on the fate of the Doha Round. This complicated matters further as it suggested that new issues would be brought into the agenda.In addition, it suggested India, China and Brazil could be forced to take on a higher commitment than other developing countries.
As has been the norm at several international meetings, the draft agreements circulated to members were loaded in favour of developed countries, prompting the government to lodge a protest. “We’ll submit our proposals on the agriculture text and the draft ministerial declaration. I have made it very clear,“ commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.
India’s has many concerns. Main among them is agriculture where a draft declaration suggested doing away with export subsidies apart from ending marketing and transport assistance and reworking the rules on export credit and food aid. In addition, India’s de mand for special safe guard measures (SSM) to check a surge in imports have not been met and the issue has now been linked to reduction in import duty, for which no timetable has been proposed.
“Export competition has just sprung up without adequate work in Geneva. This is a view that is shared by several members and many of us do not have (government) mandate on this,“ she said, adding that there has been little progress on the other two aspects of farm trade -import duty and domestic subsidies given by the rich countries. In addition, the text is seen to be too favourable to the US on the issue of export credits as well as food aid.
India’s concerns on reworking the formula to calculate the level of subsidy for procurement under PDS has also not been fully met.
The other big worry was the fate of the Doha Round, an issue on which the house is deeply divided. While India, China and several other developing countries want it to be the mainstay, the advanced economies led by the US want new issues to be included, and the Doha Round to be put on the agenda. “Freeing ourselves from the strictures of the Doha framework would allow us bring new, creative approaches to those issues, as well as allow us to explore emerging trade issues, revitalizing the WTO and the multilateral trading system,“ US Trade Representative Mike Froman told trade ministers.
“We cannot have the new issues unless Doha promise is fulfilled,“ countered Sitharaman, reiterating India’s opposition.
The draft ministerial text has suggested various options, including the inclusion of new issues and sources said that the issue would be clearer by late Thursday evening.
And, if that was not all, the draft also makes a distinction between the better-off developing economies such as China, India and Brazil by inserting a new category of “small and vulnerable economies“ among the developing countries. This will result in India, China and Brazil taking on higher commitments than the other developing countries.
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