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Digest: What the WTO talks at Nairobi mean for Indian agriculture


Commentator Biraj Patnaik writes: Nirmala Sitharaman gave the world a good illustration of crocodile tears. She was at the centre of the negotiations and walked away with little more than assurances of pious intent, after conceding to the core US demand to drop the re-affirmation of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) from the ministerial declaration.

WTO talks explained: What’s at stake for Indian agriculture
Latha Jishnu
The Nairobi ministerial will define the future direction of WTO and the multilateral trading system. In the face of dogged opposition from activists, the developed world has taken to signing regional trade pacts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. These agreements, which bring together the rich countries in a secretive pact with emerging economies, hit at the very heart of a free and fair multilateral system. The club of the elite can bypass the rules enshrined in WTO and also exclude the majority of the world’s developing countries from a very large chunk of trade. Both China and India are excluded from these trade agreements.

WTO NAIROBI PACKAGE: India packed off empty handed and humiliated
South Solidarity
Civil society groups in India have come out strongly against the outcome of the WTO Nairobi Ministerial citing concerns on both the negotiating process and substantive issues in the various texts adopted. The Ministerial was extended by an extra day due to disagreements from various developing countries, including India, and was finally concluded in the late hours of 19 December with the adoption of the Nairobi package which includes a Ministerial Declaration and six related decisions on agriculture, cotton and Least Developed Countries (LDCs). (Also read: India Africa Solidarity Statement)

How Sitharaman Served Up India Instead of Using WTO High Table to Block US Agenda
Biraj Patnaik, The Wire
India’s commerce minister, Nirmala Sitharaman gave the world a good illustration of crocodile tears, with her closing plenary statement expressing “disappointment” at the DDA not being re-affirmed in the ministerial declaration. She was at the centre of the negotiations and walked away with little more than assurances of pious intent, after conceding to the core US demand to drop the re-affirmation of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) from the ministerial declaration.

#ENDWTO: Developing Countries return Empty Handed from WTO’s Nairobi Ministerial
Afsar Jafri, Focus on Global South
Those of us who were in Nairobi, however are still contemplating how it is possible to have a successful outcome despite the fundamental differences among members on crucial issues. How come the MC10 which was at one point on the verge of collapse sailed through? Why a country like India with a 1.2 billion population was silenced and forced to accept a BAD deal compromising its policy space and above all its sovereignty?

US/India WTO Agreement: How Corporate Greed Trumps Needs of World’s Poor and Hungry
Common Dreams
The United States cheered on Thursday an agreement it reached with India as progress for the World Trade Organization (WTO). Critics, however, say deal is likely a win for corporations and economic loss for developing countries. A fact sheet from the U.S. Trade Representative explains that there are two parts to the deal that broke what had been an impasse over agreements from Ministerial meeting last year in Bali. The first is that the two countries stated they would move forward on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)—the WTO’s first multilateral trade agreement of the body’s two-decade existence. The second is an agreement on India’s food security program, which allows for domestic “food stockpiling.”

WTO spat: ‘The price US paid to its wheat farmers in 1986-88 is almost equal to what India is paying 20 years later in 2015-16’.
Devinder Sharma, Ground Reality
In this excellent economic analysis, French economist Jacques Berthelot has pierced through the flawed argument of the rich countries to establish that there is hardly a difference between what constitutes administered price and what is taken as market price or reference price. Accordingly, the reference price that US and EU want India to follow is actually inclusive of massive subsidies. If you compute these subsidies in the final price, it is no different than the MSP that India provides now.

What next for poor countries fighting to trade in an unfair world?
Kevin Watkins, The Guardian
European and American negotiators, and their emerging market counterparts, talk like free traders but act like old-fashioned mercantilists bent on opening up other countries’ markets while offering as little as possible themselves. Meanwhile, the rules-based, multilateral trading system is increasingly unable to rise to the challenge of supporting inclusive growth, eradicating poverty and tackling climate change. If you think the denouement in Nairobi will change this, think again.

Food security and the WTO
Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Foreign Policy in Focus
Rebuilding sound food systems requires a clear look at what is working on the ground, and how to build up from there. Trade is a complement, not a substitute, for national food systems. The WTO should stop insisting on an agenda that was already out of date when it was first broached over a decade ago. It should get back on track – or get out of the way — to support fresh approaches that bolster local food systems.

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