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India disappointed as WTO's Nairobi ministerial fails to reaffirm development agenda

21 December 2015

The ministerial declaration adopted at the tenth ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), despite the delay and acrimony, failed to unanimously reaffirm the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), although it did not abandon DDA altogether.

The Nairobi Ministerial did not consider the demand by India and other developing countries to push the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) and the Doha Round just narrowly escaped being junked altogether.

The declaration noted that many members reaffirm the DDA while others do not but ''nevertheless, there remains a strong commitment of all members to advance negotiations on the remaining Doha issues''.

The statement is preceded by a mention that some members ''believe new approaches are necessary to achieve meaningful negotiations'' and that ''members have different views on how to address the negotiations''.

There was no meeting ground at all between the developing countries, which wanted an unambiguous reaffirmation of the DDA and the developed countries, which want the Doha Round to be scrapped and a new Round to be initiated, with new issues.

In fact, the Nairobi ministerial also leaves a window open for the inclusion of new issues investment, competition, transparency in government procurement, to name just three that developed countries have been pushing for and developing countries have been resisting.

The ministerial declaration circulated on Saturday reflected the division amongst the WTO membership on the issue of the reaffirmation of the Doha mandate. India, along with other developing countries, especially most members of the G-33, LDCs, the Africa Group and the ACP, wanted a reaffirmation of the mandate of the Doha Round.

While the majority was in favour of such reaffirmation, a few members opposed the reaffirmation of the Doha mandate. This marks a significant departure from the fundamental WTO principle of consensus-based decision making.

Notwithstanding the difficulty in the negotiations, the draft declaration reflects India's demand for a reaffirmation from all members to work towards a permanent solution on public stockholding. Further, it also provides a ministerial affirmation that till such time a permanent solution is found, the peace clause shall continue to be in place.

The draft Declaration also reflects India's demand for a ministerial decision to develop a special safeguard mechanism for agricultural products that will be available for developing countries.

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