WTO: Differences intensify over Nairobi package

Wednesday, 4 November 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

NEW DELHI, NOVEMBER 2:  Differences between developing countries and rich nations over what needs to be included in the package of agreements, to be delivered at the Nairobi Ministerial meet of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in December, are getting more intensified.

India, China and Indonesia were among the developing nations that recently took on farm exporting members such as the US and New Zealand for pushing for an agreement on export competition at Nairobi, while ignoring other aspects of the farm negotiations such as a special safeguard mechanism for poor farmers.

“At last week’s meeting of the Committee on Agriculture (CoA), several developing countries made it obvious that they are not willing to agree to only a pact on export competition in agriculture at Nairobi without getting anything in return,”,” an official who attended the meeting said.

Speaking independently at the meet, India’s representative stated that all three pillars of the agriculture negotiations — market access, domestic support and export competition — were balanced, and asked members not to cherry pick.

China, too, seemed to be on the same page with its representative stating that members should not push any issue off the table, the official said.

The US and some others support the conclusion of the Doha Round — which has been on since November 2001— at Nairobi, with the delivery of a small package of agreement on select issues.

Development issues

This is being opposed by many developing countries such as India as it would result in burying of all developmental issues that the Doha Round included and subsequent rounds might just focus on issues favoured by powerful nations.

The US, backed by the entire Cairns group of farm exporting countries, has been insisting that a pact on export competition — for time-bound elimination of all forms of export subsidies and tracking and monitoring of export measures — was the only plausible agreement that could be reached at Nairobi. The G-33 group of developing countries in agriculture, led by Indonesia, however, does not agree.

At the CoA meeting, the alliance insisted on an agreement on a ‘special safeguard mechanism’ that will allow developing countries to raise import tariffs on farm goods whenever there was a surge in imports or a fall in domestic prices.

The G-33 proposal also received support from the African Group and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries group. It was, however, opposed by the US and the Cairns group, which argued that the mechanism would allow countries to raise tariffs instead of opening markets, a step in the wrong direction of agriculture reform. (The Hindu Business Line)