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India to press for implementation of Bali deal at Nairobi trade talks

By Manoj Kumar and Rajesh Kumar Singh
December 11, 2015 11:09 IST
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India will push for implementation of the Bali trade deal at the World Trade Organisation talks in Nairobi next week and remain open on all other "non-binding" issues, its Trade Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday.

Trade ministers from 162 WTO countries will gather in Kenya's capital from Dec. 15-18 to work on an agreement to liberalise global trade and give a push to the Doha round of trade talks stuck since 2001.

The 2013 Bali Ministerial Declaration included a temporary deal to allow India to hold high grain stocks for food security in return for its support for the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) that was struck at that meeting.

Last year, Sitharaman stared down a United States-led group of countries to have India's food stocks deal made into a lasting concession despite accusations that New Delhi's brinkmanship threatened the viability of the WTO.

"I am not looking at the permanent solution to public stockholding as a demand because I presume it's been agreed in Bali," she said. "Let's honour Bali ... let's deliver Bali."

She told reporters the agreement on public stockholding should find a mention in the Nairobi declaration.

"It has to be a part of the declaration because it was agreed in Bali," Sitharaman said. "I don't need to put it as a demand, but I will remind you if you haven't put it."

Aside from the focus on the implementation of the Bali deal, she said non-differential treatment among emerging economies and the freedom to raise tariffs temporarily to deal with import surges are on India's "wish-list".

Sitharaman said she was going to the trade talks with a "very open and positive approach".

Analysts reckon the WTO meeting will struggle to reconcile the demand of developing countries for a special safeguard mechanism (SSM) to impose emergency import duties, with the push from developed countries to eliminate farm export subsidies.

WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo has urged members to show flexibility for a successful meeting as several countries, frustrated by a persistent deadlock at the WTO, move towards regional trade pacts.

India and many other countries have been left out of emerging regional trade pacts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreed by the US and 11 other countries in October.

Earlier, the European Union, Brazil and four other countries proposed to end farm export subsidies.

The proposal would ban subsidies within 11 years and introduce new rules and transparency requirements for state trading enterprises, non-emergency food aid, and export credits, guarantees and insurance.

Abhijit Das, head of the Delhi-based think-tank Centre for WTO studies, doesn't expect India to obstruct the talks.

"The central issue at Nairobi will be the reaffirmation of the Doha round," he said, adding most of the developing countries were in favour of continuing negotiations.

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Manoj Kumar and Rajesh Kumar Singh
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