India rejects rich nations' claims of consensus on farm export subsidy elimination

EU says Nairobi meet will be a success if export subsidies deal is inked

December 16, 2015 11:56 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 11:04 am IST - Nairobi

India has rejected claims by rich countries that there is a broad consensus for a deal during the WTO's Nairobi meet on getting rid of farm export subsidies. It also expressed serious concern over the issue -- of a significant reduction of subsidies given by the developed nations to their farm sector -- not even being discussed at the moment.

Brazil and European Union (EU) were among those WTO members who pitched for a deal on 'export competition' at the ongoing Nairobi Ministerial Conference of the WTO.

'Export competition' is a part of the ongoing Doha Round talks of the WTO on agricultural trade. It is meant for reform measures on farm export subsidies as well as subsidies through non-emergency food aid, export finance programmes in addition to the activities of exporting state trading enterprises.

Developing and poor countries want rich countries to drastically reduce their trade distorting farm subsidies, while simultaneously seeking adequate flexibility in reducing their own farm export subsidies. Rich countries, on the other hand, have sought greater commitments from emerging markets such as India on undertaking greater commitments on farm export subsidies. India had sought additional flexibility for developing countries so that they can provide such more subsidies on some products, while reducing subsidies on other products.

Breakthrough moment

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, in her statement at the plenary session of the Nairobi meet, said: "Together with several other WTO Members, we have put forward a joint submission which sets out a realistic compromise on all forms of export support measures."

She added that such a deal would provide tremendous benefits to developing countries and would contribute to making the multilateral trading system fairer.

Stressing that a deal (on export competition) would be meaningful and doable, she said such a deal coupled with other issues of interest of particular interest to the Least Developed Countries (LDC), would truly make the Nairobi Ministerial Conference a breakthrough moment.

Brazil, in its statement, said an option for the successful conclusion of the Nairobi meet is to have a deal on prohibition of subsidies on agricultural products as well as a package to boost the trade prospects of LDCs.

Brazil added that elimination of farm export subsidies is overdue as such subsidies, especially those given by the rich countries, are hurting farmers in developing and poor countries.

Indian commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman said: "The reduction in the massive subsidization of the farm sector in developed countries which was the clear cut mandate of the Doha Development Agenda is now not even a subject matter of discussion today, leave aside serious negotiations."

Sitharaman added that issues that are of interest to the developing countries -- including protection of their poor farmers and on food sovereignty -- are being pushed into the future. "On the other hand, there is a sudden inexplicable zeal to harvest Export Competition. On this we are told that there is convergence when in fact, there appears to be little," she pointed out.

Recently, the WTO Chair of the agriculture negotiations, Ambassador Vitalis of New Zealand, had told WTO members that export competition in agriculture is broadly believed to be a possible deliverable for the Nairobi Ministerial Conference. However, he added that “Unfortunately, it is also clear today that there are still some significant outstanding issues within this pillar.”

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