Developed nations trying to sidetrack WTO Doha Round: Sitharaman

Nairobi, Dec 16 (IANS) Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday said the Doha Round of negotiations should remain firmly on the WTO’s agenda instead of being diverted from dealing with developing countries’ concerns by “new issues” being pushed by advanced countries led by the US.

“We are of the firm view that this ministerial (plenary) must clearly re-affirm the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) and all ministerial declarations and decisions taken since 2001 when we launched the Doha Round,” Sitharaman said here at the ministerial plenary, the World Trade Organisation’s first such event in Africa.

“It is our duty to safeguard the legitimate interests of poor farmers and the food security of hundreds of millions in developing countries,” she said.

Noting that the Doha Round “negotiations have spilled over into Nairobi, which makes matters very complicated”, Sitharaman said, “it is in our collective interest to continue to work on all pillars, keeping its development dimension intact”.

“The reduction in the massive subsidization of the farm sector in developed countries, which was the clear-cut mandate of the DDA, is now not even a subject matter of discussion today, leave aside serious negotiations,” she added.

India’s commerce minister said the G-33 group of developing countries has called for an effective special safeguard mechanism for developing countries, and for changing the rules relating to public stockholding for food security purposes.

“It is regrettable that longstanding issues of interest to a large number of developing countries are being put aside for the future and new issues of recent vintage are being taken up with unusual enthusiasm,” the minister said.

Developed countries want elimination of export subsidy given by countries like India to boost their agriculture exports.

On the other hand, India, along with other developing nations, is pushing for special safeguard mechanisms which would help in protecting the interests of poor farmers in case of sudden surges in imports or fall in commodity prices.

She quoted Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to say that agricultural reforms remain the corner stone of the Doha Round negotiations.

“The agriculture negotiations in the Doha Round are the ones from which developing countries can derive most gains. Africa’s farmers simply cannot compete against heavily subsidised farmers in developed countries,” Kenyatta said here on Tuesday.

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