TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec17/17)
12 December 2017
Third World Network

India won't accept shifting priority from DDA to non-trade issues
Published in SUNS #8594 dated 12 December 2017

Buenos Aires, 11 Dec (D. Ravi Kanth) - India's commerce minister Suresh Prabhu on Monday delivered a strong message that his government will not accept shifting priority from the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) issues to non-trade issues such as investment facilitation and new disciplines for micro, small, and medium enterprises at the World Trade Organization's eleventh ministerial conference in Buenos Aires.

India said the new issues have no mandate, and it is grave error to address these issues without completing work on the unresolved Doha issues.

Delivering a balanced but strong statement at the plenary meeting, the Indian commerce and industry minister said: "At a time when the global trade environment is fragile, let this [Buenos Aires] Ministerial Conference be an occasion for conducting the unfinished agenda of the Doha Work Programme, and collectively strive to preserve and revitalize the WTO."

Without naming the United States which is blocking the appointment of members to the Appellate Body and thereby causing "paralysis" in the dispute settlement resolution system, India said it is concerned "at the inordinate delay in appointment of new members to the Appellate Body."

"We need to collectively and expeditiously resolve this impasse," India said.

Among the proposed deliverables at Buenos Aires, India emphasized the importance of the permanent solution for public stockholding (PSH) programs for food security, which "is a matter of survival for eight hundred million hungry and undernourished people in the world."

"A successful resolution of this issue would fulfil our collective commitment to the global community. In this context, we cannot envisage any negotiated outcome at MC11, which does not include a permanent solution," the Indian commerce and industry minister said.

He drew attention to addressing the real trade-distorting subsidies by eliminating the Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) and removing the continued "asymmetry" as a first step for commencing work in the global agriculture reform.

"This asymmetry needs to be addressed as a first step in agricultural reform through a post-MC11 work programme without, however, shifting the burden of reduction of agricultural subsidies to developing countries," Prabhu said.

Commenting on fisheries subsidies where some progress has been made, India said "we can agree to future work on this issue towards an outcome at MC12 that preserves the policy space for developing countries to support millions who depend on traditional fishing activity as the sole source of livelihood."

The Indian minister said that the discussions on domestic regulation in services are not based on a credible framework, adding, "I am apprehensive that the present approach in the negotiations will not lead to any fruitful outcomes at MC11."

"A work programme for Services including DR [domestic regulation] and some elements of India's proposal on Trade Facilitation in Services, including Mode 4, can take the Services agenda forward," the Indian minister maintained.

On new issues which are sought to be introduced into the negotiating agenda of the WTO, India cautioned the ministers that any steps on e-commerce that would tweak the 1998 work program will prove to be "extremely divisive."

"Many of these issues are neither trade-related nor have these been discussed in detail," he said, arguing that "gains from E-commerce must not be confused with gains from negotiating binding rules in this area."

"It is for this reason that we support continuation of the 1998 Work Programme with its non-negotiating mandate," Prabhu said emphatically.

It remains to be seen how India will ensure its pronouncements at the meeting are translated into actual ministerial decisions, said several trade ministers, who asked not to be quoted.