No bargain on protection of poor farmers’ interests: India

While African countries are keen to ensure that the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) ongoing Doha Development Round — aimed at a pact to open up global trade — does not come to a premature end at the global trade body’s Nairobi meet beginning on Tuesday, India has made it clear that protection of poor farmers’ interests and its food security programmes are not up for any bargain at the negotiations.

Hectic parleys among WTO member-countries — with different offensive and defensive interests in terms of market access regarding trade in agriculture, industrial goods and services — began on Monday, a day ahead of the December 15-18 Ministerial Conference in Nairobi.

According to senior officials privy to the developments during the day, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo and did some plain-speaking. The Minister is learnt to have said India will not compromise on the need for a permanent solution, for the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes.

She also pointed out that the WTO members in the Bali Ministerial Declaration (in 2013) had decided to negotiate on an agreement for a permanent solution for adoption by the 11th Ministerial Conference (in 2017). She has also stressed that India wants the WTO members to take up on a priority basis the issue of a Special Safeguard Mechanism (a trade remedy that will allow the developing countries to temporarily hike duties to counter the import surge and price falls in farm products).

She also held meetings with Ministers from Brazil and African countries including Kenya and Lesotho. Brazil, being a leading agricultural exporter, wanted more market access for its farm items in return for supporting the SSM proposal, a demand that did not go down well with India, sources said.

A lot is at stake for African countries as the Ministerial Conference (the WTO’s highest decision making body) is being held in the continent for the first time, and therefore, they are working hard to ensure that there are ‘deliverables’ for the benefit of least developed countries (LDC).

Since many of the LDCs are in Africa, the member-countries from the continent want progress on issues including duty-free, quota-free market access for LDCs, the LDC services waiver (to ensure preferences to LDCs in services trade), measures to boost their cotton trade and preferential rules of origin.

The developed countries, citing the slow progress in Doha Round negotiations, want the Round to be brought to close or expand the ambit of the negotiations by including ‘new’ issues of their interest. These new items, which they call are the ones challenging the world trade today, include on global value chains, e-commerce, investment, competition, labour and environment.

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 6:12:32 PM |

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