WTO ‘talkathon’ on social media soon

Govt. seeks report on WTO implications; NGOs for protecting ‘development’ agenda.

December 21, 2015 10:42 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 01:01 am IST - NEW DELHI:

A day after opposition parties alleged that the government has ‘failed’ to protect India’s interests at the December 15-19 Nairobi Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is learnt to have sought a report from the Commerce Ministry on the implications of the measures agreed upon at the Kenyan capital.

The Commerce Ministry, on its part, will also shortly organise a ‘talkathon’ on social media, including Twitter, on the WTO’s Nairobi meet-related issues, official sources said. The ministry is also expected to table a statement in Parliament before the ongoing session ends, on what the ‘Nairobi package’ means for India.

White paper on WTO pacts Meanwhile, civil society groups and international trade experts on Monday demanded that the Parliament should ask the government to immediately mobilise the support of the developing and poor countries — through diplomatic efforts — to protect the ‘development agenda’ of the WTO’s ongoing Doha Round negotiations. They also wanted the government to bring out a ‘white paper’ on whether India is making any gains from the WTO-level agreements.

The National Working Group on Patent Laws and WTO, a civil society group, said “after all the noise the Modi government earlier made on how the decision on public stockholding (for food security purposes) reached at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Declaration was wrong, India has given in at the Nairobi meet unilaterally without asking for quid pro quo in terms of a permanent solution to the issue (of public stockholding for food security purposes).”

Food sovereignty Dinesh Abrol, the convenor of the Working Group, said the government could not secure India’s interests on food sovereignty as well as a tool (called the Special Safeguard Mechanism, or SSM) to protect the interests of poor farmers. SSM, if agreed upon by the WTO member countries, will allow developing countries to temporarily hike duties to counter import surges and price falls of farm items.

Mr. Abrol said India could not secure any concrete commitments on SSM other than just a ‘work programme’, which, he said, will mean that the decision on SSM is indefinitely postponed. He added that the developing countries including India will be asked to grant greater market access in farm products in return for an SSM.

Referring to the claims of the BJP government, after coming to power, that the Bali agreement — agreed upon by the previous UPA government — was ‘imperfect’, Afsar Jafri of the NGO ‘Focus on the Global South’ said “if Bali was a mistake, Nairobi 2015 was a disaster as it will be remembered as the graveyard for development concerns and multilateralism.”

Biswajit Dhar, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said India has got nothing in return for conceding ground on specific areas. “The decisions on completely eliminating export subsidies by 2023 will further aggravate the crisis in India’s sugar sector,” he said.

Adverse impact The opening in the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration for ‘new’ issues of developed country interest is also an indication that the U.S. and European Union will now push for elements from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership into the WTO agenda, he said.

Ranja Sengupta of the Third World Network said the possible introduction of ‘new’ issues such as investment and government procurement will have adverse impact on India’s agriculture sector as well.

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