Trade ministers of as many as 47 countries, including India, China and several African nations, today asked the WTO members to "redouble" efforts to conclude pending issues of the long-stalled Doha Round. On the first day of the WTO ministerial meeting here, the 47 nations in a joint statement said they recognise that a comprehensive conclusion of the Doha Developmental Agenda (DDA) with economically meaningful and balanced outcomes will provide impetus to global trade liberalisation and facilitation.
It would also correct the development deficit in the rules resulting from the previous rounds of multilateral trade negotiations and improve the trading prospects of developing Members, and enhance the primary role of the WTO in global trade governance, the joint statement said. "We need to redouble our efforts to enable us to proceed towards the full, successful and multilateral conclusion of the negotiations ... Of the Doha Ministerial Declaration in fulfilment of the commitments we took at Doha," it said.
The statement assumes significance as developed countries have stated that they do not want to move ahead with the Doha Round, negotiations for which started in 2001. Besides India and China, the joint statement was signed by trade ministers of South Africa, Venezuela, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco and Zambia, among others. Backed by several developing countries, India is strongly pitching for finding a permanent solution to the food security issue and a mechanism to protect poor farmers from surge in imports at the WTO meeting of 162 trade ministers, which kick started today. Speaking at the opening session of the WTO meeting, Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta emphasised on the importance of the pending issues of the Doha Round.
Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the Kenyan President statement has given a very powerful opening to the meeting. "They remain important and they will continue to be. Indeed, agriculture plays a fundamental role in many of the world's economy and we must do all we can to ensure that these issues are addressed," Chair of the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference and Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade Amina Mohamed told reporters here. Speaking at the opening session, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said that the members should aim high to reach an agreement on the Doha round.
Earlier in the day, Sitharaman also held bilateral meetings with South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, Australian Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb. Joining the ranks to seek early conclusion of Doha round, the trade ministers of 47 nations said that "with the purpose of strengthening the multilateral trading system and ensuring that development is at the centre of the ongoing negotiation, we the Ministers from…believe it is imperative to make" this joint statement.
The ministers said they recognise that the DDA is a significant multilateral attempt to respond to trade and development interests of developing members and redress the imbalances codified in the rules resulting from the previous rounds of multilateral trade negotiations. "We reaffirm the Declarations and Decisions we adopted at Doha, and all subsequent Declarations and Decisions and reaffirm our full commitment to give effect to them," it added. The decisions and declarations "we propose to adopt at our present session would signify that we have taken yet another step forward in the negotiations and attest to our strong resolve to complete the DDA as has been reaffirmed in the Sustainable Development Goal," it said.
The negotiations, launched at the Qatari capital in 2001 and known as the Doha Round, has missed several deadlines for conclusion due to wide differences over the issue of giving protection to poor farmers and the extent to open the markets for industrial goods. India has reiterated that members have spent over a decade on the Doha Round and it should not be kept hanging. On the other hand the rich nations are keen to abandon old issues and negotiate new matters such as government procurement and investments.
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 issue of subsidy being given to farmers.