US fails WTO talks, India disappointed
No substantial deals were reached at a World Trade Organization meeting in Buenos Aires after three days of negotiations, highlighting how multilateral trade relations are growing increasingly fraught, reports bloomberg.
The trade body’s 164 members didn’t reach full consensus on any of the major objectives it had set itself before the meeting. They agreed to continue negotiating positions on agricultural and fishing subsidies and on reaching a definition on what constitutes illegal fishing.
Public food stockholding
Bringing disappointment to developing countries like India, the talks at the WTO's 11th ministerial conference collapsed, with the US going back on its commitment to find a permanent solution to the public food stockholding issue.
The Indian team led by Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, in cooperation with the G33 grouping, had pitched hard for permanent solution to food security issue as it was crucial for livelihood of 800 million people across the globe.
Under the global trade norms, a WTO member country's food subsidy bill should not breach the limit of 10 per cent of the value of production based on the reference price of 1986-88. Apprehending that full implementation of food security programme may result in breach of the WTO cap, India has been seeking amendments in the formula to calculate the food subsidy cap.
As an interim measure, the WTO members at the Bali ministerial meeting in December 2013 had agreed to put in place a mechanism popularly called the Peace Clause and had committed to negotiating an agreement for permanent solution at the 11th ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires.
The fate of the ministerial conference was sealed after Assistant US Trade Representative Sharon Bomer Lauritsen in a small group meeting said permanent solution to the food stockholding issue was not acceptable to America.
"Unfortunately, the strong position of one member against agriculture reform based on current WTO mandates and rules led to a deadlock without any outcome on agriculture or even a work programme for the next two years," said a statement issued by India at the end of the conference.
India sought exemptions to a prospective trade agreement aimed at curbing subsidies for illegal fishing operations. The U.S. said such exclusions were unacceptable as they would permit overfishing and harm global fish stocks. The United Nations Sustainable Goals include a target to prohibit certain forms of subsidies that contribute to overfishing and illegal fishing.
Fishing wasn’t the only point of contention at the Dec. 10-13 gathering in Argentina, convened with the aim of bolstering global trade.
In a rare bright spot, more than 60 WTO members agreed to launch a new working group aimed at establishing international rules to govern electronic commerce.
The four-day conference, which ended without a ministerial declaration or any substantive outcome, did manage to make some feeble progress on fisheries and e-commerce by agreeing to work programmes.
On the other hand, no agreement was reached on new issues like investment facilitation, MSMEs, gender and trade in absence of consensus. India was against pushing new issues on the negotiating table as it would dilute the commitment to deal with the existing ones.