COMMERCE MINISTER’S STATEMENT ON THE DOHA ROUND NEGOTIATIONS
Date : 07 Feb 2008
Location : New Delhi
Shri Kamal Nath, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, while sharing his views on the Doha Round stated that the negotiations are poised at a critical stage at the moment. While they hold the promise for a conclusion by the end of this year, unless sagacity and statesmanship is on view from the countries, which have benefited chiefly from globalization so far, the negotiations can also move sharply away from convergence.
Shri Nath stated that after the resumption of talks exactly a year ago in February 2007, considerable progress has been achieved in the negotiations on Agriculture. However, certain key issues like the cuts in overall trade distorting domestic support, product specific limits in the Amber and Blue Boxes, Green Box disciplines, sensitive products and tariff rate quotas, special safeguard, special products, special safeguard mechanism, tariff simplification, tariff capping, tariff escalation, tropical products and preference erosion etc. are yet to be resolved. The trade distorting measures resorted to by the developed countries have an impact on global agricultural prices, affecting the livelihoods of millions of farmers in the developing world. In order to live up to the avowed agenda of a Development Round, the Doha Round has to deliver on a significant and effective reduction in the agriculture subsidies being given by the developed countries. Firm commitments in this regard are yet to be come from these countries. Therefore, while the progress made in the past one year has been appreciable, considerable work still remains to be done. The Minister expressed the hope that the revised text on Agriculture, which is scheduled to be brought out any day now, will reflect truly the actual progress made and the convergence achieved.
However, Shri Kamal Nath felt that the NAMA Draft Modalities text was unbalanced and reflected the views and ambition of only one set of developed countries, while almost completely disregarding the views of more than a hundred developing countries. In order for the Doha Round to reach a successful conclusion, the Minister stated, it is imperative that the views of the membership are reflected faithfully in any document that is brought out and the document helps in actually moving forward the negotiations rather than acting as a divisive and precipitating factor among countries. Shri Nath stated that it is his earnest expectation that the revised text on NAMA, also scheduled to come out immediately, will not belie the expectations of a vast majority of the WTO membership, specially the developing countries, including India.
The third major pillar of the negotiations, viz. Services, has only shown halting progress during the past year, according to the Commerce Minister. He mentioned in this context that the ambition level in Services has been clearly delineated in the Hong Kong Ministerial and any attempt to reopen this issue in order to pitch an overweening ambition in only a limited part of the Services arena, without showing a comparable level of ambition in the other parts of the arena. For India, Services are an important sector in the Doha negotiations and market access in Modes 1 and 4 with disciplines in Domestic Regulations are a must have and not negotiable.
Shri Nath acknowledged that there are other areas of the negotiations which are also significant in their own right, e.g. Trade Facilitation, amendment to TRIPS etc.. However, he made a special mention of the Rules negotiations. In his opinion, the Draft Modalities on Rules reflect the views of one country mainly in the Anti-dumping sphere, to the detriment of the vast majority of the membership. On Fisheries Subsidies, Shri Kamal Nath said that the absurd disciplines sought to be imposed on developing countries within even their own territorial waters, ostensibly to prevent over fishing and building up of excess capacity, is unacceptable because it threatens the livelihoods of millions of small, artisanal fisherfolk. Shri Kamal Nath said that in order to move the negotiating process forward, a revised text on Fisheries Subsidies, addressing the livelihood concerns, was essential.
On the process to be adopted to reach convergence in the talks, Shri Nath mentioned that it was important to lend a sense of urgency to the proceedings. The Minister stated that it is content and not artificial timelines that are important. Thus the urgency had to be calibrated against the backdrop of realism and had to match the aspirations of the developing world in terms of an outcome that truly lived up to the promise of a Development oriented Round. Towards this end, it was important to make comparable progress in not only Agriculture but NAMA, Services and Rules as well. Only when the membership is satisfied that there is sufficient convergence across at least Agriculture, NAMA, Services and Rules, with perhaps just a few issues remaining to be resolved, could there be a horizontal process involving the highest decision making body of the WTO, viz. a Ministerial meeting.