India says won’t accept attempts to introduce differentiation

Livemint, 22 January, 2015

D. Ravikanth

India says it will not accept any attempts by rich nations to introduce “differentiation” among developing countries as a “gateway” issue for attempts to conclude the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations this year.

The Indian position was stated by its Ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Anjali Prasad at a closed-door meeting of trade envoys on Wednesday, according to several participants familiar with the meeting who declined to be named.

WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo signalled his intention to finalize a clear work programme with precise modalities by end-July to conclude the Doha trade negotiations at the upcoming 10th ministerial conference in Nairobi, Kenya, by the end of this year.

Modalities, in trade jargon, imply reduction commitments in tariffs and subsidies in agriculture and tariff cuts in industrial products.

The Doha trade negotiations, aimed at laying down the rules of world trade, were launched in 2001 in Doha, Qatar, and ought to have been concluded by end-2004. But the talks have remained deadlocked since 2008 because of fierce opposition from the US to what are called the 2008 revised draft modalities in agriculture and industrial goods.

The modalities provided clear benchmarks for reduction of trade-distorting domestic subsidies and export subsidies and export credits, an architecture of commitments for industrialized and developing countries to reduce farm tariffs, including special products and special safeguard mechanism to ward off unforeseen surges in imports of agricultural products and a formula with flexibilities to reduce industrial tariffs for developing countries.

A large majority of developing countries, including India, want the 2008 modalities to conclude the Doha trade negotiations.

Developing countries reiterated their demand at the closed-door meeting.

The envoy for the US, which remains opposed to the 2008 modalities, asked whether WTO members, particularly emerging economies, have moved away from the so-called time capsule of 2008, or stick to the same benchmarks. The US sought to know whether emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, and Argentina are willing to undertake higher commitments in agriculture and industrial goods.

The US said Washington never accepted the 2008 revised draft modalities because emerging economies were not prepared to accept ambitious cuts in agriculture and industrial goods commensurate with what the envoy described as their status in the global trading system.

In response to the US demand that emerging economies undertake higher commitments to conclude the Doha trade negotiations, India’s WTO ambassador Prasad maintained that the outcome in the Doha negotiations will not be determined on what the emerging economies are going to pay. She underscored the need to address the inequities and imbalances in the global trading system which arose from the previous Uruguay Round, according to trade envoys familiar with the meeting.

The European Union, Norway and Switzerland also wanted the emerging countries to pay more because of what they called the changed realities in the global trading system. Several developing and least developed countries also demanded that the goal posts of the so-called Doha Development Round must not be altered.

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