India opposes attempts of rich nations to stall WTO’s Doha Round talks

The government opposed alleged attempts of the developed world to “abandon” the 14-year-old Doha Round talks of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at the coming Nairobi ministerial meeting by citing the slow progress of negotiations to liberalise world trade.

Over 100 member countries including India (out of the total 162 member countries of WTO) want the Doha Round to be successfully concluded expeditiously, but only after ensuring that the “development’ dimension of the round is fulfilled in all aspects,’’ said Commerce Secretary, Rita Teaotia, speaking at an event organised by the industry body Ficci.

The Nairobi ministerial meeting is slated to be held during December 15-18. The Doha Development Round -- the ongoing negotiation round of the WTO for a pact to open up world trade by lowering or eliminating barriers -- had begun in 2001.

“Doha Round must not be abandoned at Nairobi. When so many countries are trying to reach an agreement, slow progress is inevitable. But an overwhelming number of members from the developing and the least developed world want the successful conclusion of the round. Therefore, we must consolidate what we have achieved so far and move forward,” the secretary said.

Teaotia said one group of countries, indirectly referring to the rich world, was not only stonewalling the Doha Round talks, but also was making efforts to introduce ‘new issues’ into the round.

These new issues include labour and environmental standards, e-commerce, global value chains and promotion of supply chains, environmental and sustainable goods produced using clean and green energy, transparency in government procurement, state-owned enterprises and designated monopolies, besides competition and investment provisions.

The senior official also opposed efforts from certain quarters, indirectly referring to the developed world, to categorise countries such as India, China and Indonesia as ‘emerging market economies’ (as opposed to them currently being termed as ‘developing countries’) and asking them to undertake greater market opening commitments. “These countries, including India, may be witnessing higher growth, but they still have lots of poor people, and therefore the situation cannot be compared to the developed world,” she said.

Protecting the interests of poor farmers was paramount for India, along with other developing nations, she said. India has been pushing for an effective Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) in this regard. SSM is a trade remedy that would allow developing countries to temporarily hike import duties on farm products to counter sudden import surges and price falls.

India also wants the rich countries to drastically reduce their ‘trade distorting’ farm subsidies.

Another item that India desires to be taken up on priority at the Nairobi meeting is that of arriving at a permanent solution to the issue of public food stockholding in developing countries for the purpose of food security, she said.

The secretary said India also wants an effective implementation of a package for least developed countries including duty-free and quota-free market access for them as well as decisions on preferential rules of origin, on the operationalisation of the LDC services waiver and in the area of cotton.

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Printable version | Jan 11, 2021 8:32:39 PM |

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