WIND UP TALKS AND GO HOME IF DEVELOPING COUNTRY CONCERNS IN ARE NOT MET KAMAL NATH TELLS G6 AS TALKS IN LONDON ARE DEADLOCKED
Date : 11 Mar 2006
Location : New Delhi
Shri Kamal Nath, Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, told the developed country representatives at the G-6 meeting being currently held in London that “we might as well wind up the talks and go home” if the concerns of developing countries in the area of market access are not met. The G-6 meeting is being attended by the European Union (EU), USA, Brazil, India, Japan and Australia to discuss issues relating to the ongoing Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Turning the tables on developed countries through a brilliant twist to para 24 of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration, Shri Kamal Nath strongly underlined the need for special & differential (S&D) treatment for developing countries by insisting that the “level of ambition” in the negotiations should first be done in percentage terms rather than in terms of coefficients. Presenting a simple and straight forward formula for progress of the trade talks, the Minister said that developed countries should first declare their “level of ambition” in agriculture, and whatever they were willing to do, developing countries would do two-thirds of that. Whatever developed countries were willing to do in agriculture, developing countries could be willing to match in non-agricultural market access (NAMA), but here also developed countries must do 10% more. This linkage would satisfy the requirement of para 24 of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration. But developed countries are not willing to follow this methodology, Shri Kamal Nath said, while noting that the EU was unwilling to move in agricultural market access, and the US was unwilling to move on domestic support (i.e., heavy farm subsidies), but both, together with some other developed countries, were pressing countries like India and Brazil to provide more market access in the industrial sector through coefficients for tariff cuts that did not take into account sensitivities of developing countries.
At the time of the Hong Kong Ministerial, the linkage between agriculture and NAMA established in para 24 of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration was seen in some quarters as detrimental to developing countries. But now at the G-6 meeting, India has used the same para as the strongest weapon in its arsenal. “By saying that developing countries are willing to match in NAMA what developed countries do in agriculture (and basing this on para 24) India has put them on the mat. So far, the talks are deadlocked and expectations for a solution by 30th April, are dim”, according to reports reaching here from London.
Developed countries were caught unawares by India’s insistence on describing ambitions in percentage terms and not in terms of coefficients. They were almost shell shocked by Shri Kamal Nath’s twist to para 24 of Hong Kong Declaration.
On agriculture, the Minister made it clear that at Hong Kong, it was agreed that domestic support cuts must be effective. “For me, this is the central barometer of this round. Otherwise, any market access commitments by developing countries cannot be justified”, he said. On NAMA or industrial tariffs, Shri Kamal Nath emphasised that the principle of less than full reciprocity in reduction commitments is clearly mandated in the Doha Declaration and reaffirmed in the July Framework and the Hong Kong Declaration. his clearly means that developed countries will offer greater percentage reductions than the developing countries in average terms. (For instance, if the US wants developing countries like India to take a coefficient of 20 which would result in an approximately 68% reduction then the US would need to take a coefficient of 2, which would result in a 78% reduction. The easiest way forward is for the developed countries to indicate the level of ambition. The developing countries can then offer reductions based on less than full reciprocity).
The talks held yesterday were picketed by Action Aid. Their criticisms were directed against US, EU, Japan and Australia, whom they depicted through effigies of 4 hungry sharks with teeth bared.
Para 24 of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration adopted on 18th December, 2005 relates to Balance between Agriculture and NAMA. It reads as follows:
“We recognize that it is important to advance the development objectives of this Round through enhanced market access for developing countries in both Agriculture and NAMA. To that end, we instruct our negotiators to ensure that there is a comparably high level of ambition in market access for Agriculture and NAMA. This ambition is to be achieved in a balanced and proportionate manner consistent with the principle of special and differential treatment”.