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India concerned over pace of deciding agenda for next WTO meet 

Business Standard , May 12, 2015

India today expressed concern over slow progress in finalising the agenda for the Nairobi ministerial meeting of WTO members in December to resolve pending issues of Doha round.

At the meeting, India wants to bring back issues related to the long-stalled Doha round including agriculture (export subsidies, cotton and fishery subsidies), intellectual property rights, market access and services.

"What is happening essentially (in the WTO) is a debate going on for setting an agenda for the ministerial meeting. The date which is...July for setting up an agenda seems to be approaching fast but we seem to be going nowhere. This is a clear indication that in the multi-lateral fora, we will continue to show being busy without producing much," Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher today said at a FICCI event.

The next Ministerial Conference, which is the highest decision making body of the World Trade Organization, is scheduled from December 15-18 in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Doha Round of negotiations launched in 2001 have remained stalled since July 2008 due to differences between the rich and the developing nations mainly over the subsidies given to farmers.

Besides this, the members have to discuss issues which were not deliberated upon in the Bali meeting in 2013 and that include matters related with least developed countries.

WTO members are unable to finalise the agenda because of differences on the priority order of the issues at the Nairobi Ministerial meeting.

"We are at a point where WTO's mechanism has not kept pace with the need of the hour...we are also at a point where the world is going through a transformational phase and therefore it is natural that in this phase it will be very difficult for the WTO to come out with results," he said.

However, Kher added that despite the slow pace of negotiations, WTO have not lost its relevance. And it is an institution of hope for large number of countries and that cannot be undermined.

"It is important for India that it maintains its position in the WTO," he said.

Speaking on the free trade agreements, the Commerce secretary said that Indian industry still have reservations over these pacts.

"India has conventional set of FTAs and therefore the new breed of FTAs have to be much more aggressive and much more strategically and technically evolved," he said.

Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian said increasing exports would also lead to rise in imports and the country should be prepared for that.

"Trade reform is going to involve political costs domestically. It's great you are going to export, but you are also going to import a lot. There are going to be dislocation cost, political cost, economic costs. Maybe they will be transitory, hopefully, may be they will be overwhelmed by the benefits of this," Subramanian added.