In the backdrop of a political intrigue surrounding the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) final Ministerial Declaration at the recently-concluded meet in the Kenyan capital, Commerce Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, is likely to make a statement in Parliament tomorrow on what the ‘Nairobi package’ means for India.
The minister will be making her statement amidst claims by international trade experts and civil society groups that the December 15-19 Nairobi Ministerial Conference outcomes favoured rich countries and reflected “the capitulation to insistent U.S. proposals.”
Ms. Sitharaman represented India at the Ministerial Conference, the WTO’s highest decision-making body, held in Africa for the first time during the global trade body’s its 20-year existence.
Trade experts and NGOs have also said the ‘Nairobi package’ has “effectively killed” the fundamental objective of the WTO’s Doha Round negotiations, which was to improve the trading prospects of the developing and the poor world, or in other words a ‘development agenda.’
The final overall Nairobi Ministerial Declaration, on measures to lower global trade barriers, would not have been announced without the consent by all the WTO member countries (162 of them, including India). But, “India opposes non reaffirmation of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA),” according to a Commerce Ministry statement. “This (lack of unanimity on DDA reaffirmation) marks a significant departure from the fundamental WTO principle of consensus-based decision making.”
Ms. Sitharaman herself said on the social networking site Twitter that she was “utterly disappointed” that a unanimous reaffirmation of DDA hasn't happened.
She also tweeted a document signed by Anjali Prasad, permanent representative of India to the WTO — written on behalf of the Indian commerce minister — and addressed to the WTO director general Roberto Azevedo, asking him to place the letter in the Closing Plenary (of the Nairobi meet).
According to the letter dated December 19 India is of the view that (future) negotiations “should be advanced in accordance with the Ministerial Declarations and Decisions subsequently adopted, and build on the significant progress that has been achieved in the discussions on these issues.”
Biswajit Dhar, Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University and trade expert, said “lack of consensus on the continuation of Doha Round, together with the clear articulation by the developed countries that they don’t want to see the Doha Round any more, effectively means that we have seen the end of the Doha Round negotiations in Nairobi.”
“The Nairobi Ministerial Declaration… reflects the capitulation to insistent US proposals to set aside key Doha issues … and to open the door to issues that favour its own commercial interests,” said Timothy A Wise, Policy Research Director, Global Development and Environmental Institute, Tufts University.
Continuation The developing and the poor world wanted the Doha Round to continue till all outstanding issues, including on protection of poor farmers and food sovereignty, are resolved. But the rich countries wanted the Round to end and had sought the introduction of new issues that are of their interests, including e-commerce, global value chains, competition laws, labour, environment and investments.
According to a WTO’s statement after the meet, the ministers stated while negotiators should prioritize work where results have not yet been achieved, “some wish to identify and discuss other issues for negotiation; others do not. Any decision to launch negotiations multilaterally on such issues would need to be agreed by all members.”