Modi government surrenders at WTO meeting in Nairobi: experts

Monday 21 December 2015

The failure of the Narendra Modi government to defend the rights of the people of India is nothing but surrender

The introduction of new issues such as investment and government procurement will have adverse implications for our agriculture sector as well, an expert said
Credit: WTO

India failed to live up to the expectations of its people in the recently-held World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting in Nairobi where it compromised on everything, civil society groups said on Monday. They also want that the government must clarify its position in the Parliament on this issue.

Minister of State (independent charge) for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman, who represented India in Nairobi, had also expressed disappointment regarding the outcome of the meeting. However, the civil society groups termed it useless, especially after the government failed there.

In Nairobi, the dismal failure of the Narendra Modi government to defend the rights of the people of India and other developing countries is nothing, but surrender. Whether it was done intentionally or just a blunder, it is still not clear, the civil society groups added.

Sitharaman did not appear in a meeting with African countries organised to discuss key issues.

“India surrendered the only instrument that it had as a bargaining chip in Nairobi by agreeing to the Trade Facilitation Agreement,” a statement released by the National Working Group on patent laws and WTO said.

WTO expert and professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University Biswajit Dhar said that not only India got nothing out of Nairobi, but the country also conceded ground on specific areas.

“The decisions on completely eliminating export subsidies by 2023 will further aggravate the crisis in our sugar sector. The opening in the text for new issues is also an indication that now the US and the EU will aggressively push for elements from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and (the) Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) into the WTO agenda. India will once again be on the backfoot,” he said.

Convener of the National Working Group on Patent Laws and WTO Dinesh Abrol said that the Parliament should urgently debate the commissions and omissions of the Modi government in Nairobi.

“We demand that the government be immediately asked to prepare a White Paper on the WTO negotiations and on various free trade agreements (FTAs) and autonomous liberalisation to stop further damage to the erosion of development policy space which is so crucial to the realisation of development concerns (that) includes the basic rights to food, employment, education, public health and safe environment,” he added.

Senior Researcher at the Third World Network Ranja Sengupta said that on the two key demands placed by India, including permanent solution for public food stockholding and the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM), it got nothing more than what was present before Nairobi.

The introduction of new issues such as investment and government procurement will have adverse implications for our agriculture sector as well, he added.

“If Bali 2013 was a mistake, Nairobi 2015 was a disaster. In 2014, India agreed to the Trade Facilitation (TF) agreement unilaterally without getting anything in return. The 20th anniversary of the WTO will be remembered as the graveyard for development concerns and multilateralism, Afsar Jafri of Focus on the Global South said.

The ministerial was extended by one more day due to disagreements from various developing countries, including India.

It concluded late on December 19 with the adoption of the Nairobi package which includes a ministerial declaration and six related decisions on agriculture, cotton and Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

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