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India pushed hard for interests of developing countries at WTO: Sitharaman

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New Delhi: India negotiated hard at the WTO’s recent Nairobi ministerial meeting to ensure that the interests of developing countries remain at the centre of the multi-lateral trade body’s agenda, parliament was informed on Tuesday.

“India negotiated hard to ensure that the WTO continues to place the interest of developing countries and LDCs (least developed countries) at the centre of its agenda,” Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Lok Sabha.

Some developed countries, including the US, are opposed to the continuation of the Doha Development Round negotiations launched in 2001, she said in a statement to the House, following her return from Nairobi meeting that concluded on Saturday.

Even as rich nations conceded to the demands of emerging economies on issues such as finding a permanent solution to disputes over government stockpiling of food for security, India protested the non-inclusion of the development agenda at the latest trade talks.

The Nairobi Ministerial Declaration acknowledged that members have different views on how to address the future of the Doha Round, but also noted the strong commitment of all members to advance negotiations on the remaining Doha issues, Sitharaman said.

“India not only made a statement to this effect at the closing ceremony on December 19 but also made a written submission to the Director-General, WTO and the Chair of the 10th Ministerial Conference,” the minister said.

She also said on demand from a large number of developing countries for a Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) for agricultural products, India negotiated a ministerial declaration that recognises that developing countries will have the right to have recourse to an SSM.

The SSM allows developing countries to resort to higher customs duties on some farm produce to protect the interests of its farmers.

As the future of WTO’s Doha Development Agenda (DDA) appeared in doubt, India succeeded in obtaining a re-affirmative ministerial decision on public stockholding for food security purposes, Sitharaman said.

India’s statement issued at the end of the Nairobi talks said: “Notwithstanding the difficulty in the negotiations, the draft declaration reflects India’s demand for a reaffirmation from all members to work towards a permanent solution on public stockholding.”

On new issues like investment and e-commerce being pushed by developed countries, Sitharaman said the Nairobi Declaration acknowledges the differences in views and
states that any decision to launch negotiations multilaterally would need to be agreed by all members.

The minister said all countries agreed to the elimination of agricultural export subsidies subject to the preservation of special and differential treatment for developing countries such as a longer phase-out period for transportation and marketing export subsidies.

“The reduction in the massive subsidization of the farm sector in developed countries, which was the clear-cut mandate of the DDA, is now not even a subject matter of discussion today, leave aside serious negotiations,” Sitharaman had said at the plenary session at Nairobi.

She told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that the Nairobi ministerial decision contains disciplines that “include terms to limit the benefits of financing support to agriculture exporters, rules on state enterprises engaging in agricultural trade and disciplines to ensure that food aid does not negatively affect domestic production. Developing countries, such as India, are given longer time to implement these rules.”(IANS)

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India China’s Fight Over the Doklam Plateau Explained

Doklam or Donglang, is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India

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picture from- indiaopines.com

By Ruchika Verma

  • India and China have an old history of disputes
  • This time, the dispute is regarding the Dokplam Plateau
  • The area is of strategic importance for both the nations

Disputes between India and China are not at all uncommon. The rivalry between the two nations is famous. There have been several disputes between the two on the India-China border in past, and there seems to be no stopping for these disputes in the present or future, for that matter.

India and China have a n old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com
India and China have an old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com

In June 2017, the world witnessed yet another dispute arising between India and China. This time the dispute was about China building a road extending to Doklam Plateau, which both nations have been fighting over for years now.

Also Read: China is likely to get involved if India disrupts $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

History of the dispute 

Doklam or Donglang (in Chinese), is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India. India doesn’t directly claim the area but supports Bhutan’s claims on it.

India fits into the picture, as this plateau is an important area for India. Not only is Bhutan one of the biggest allies of India; China gaining access over the Doklam Plateau will also endanger India’s borders, making them vulnerable to attacks.

Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan's borders.
Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan’s borders.

Apart from the hostile history of the two nations, the Doklam Plateau is also important for India to maintain its control over a land corridor that connects to its remote northeastern States. China building a road through Doklam surely threatens that control.

A complete timeline of what happened in the recent Doklam Standoff 

On 16 June 2017, Chinese troops with construction vehicles and excavators began extending an existing road southward on the Doklam plateau, near India’s border. It was Bhutan which raised the alarm for India.

On 18 June 2017, India responded by sending around 270 Indian troops, with weapons and two bulldozers to evict the Chinese troops from Doklam.

On 29 June 2017, Bhutan protested against the construction of a road in the disputed territory.  According to the Bhutanese government, China attempted to extend a road in an area which is shared both Bhutan and India, along with China.

Between 30 June 2017 and 5 July 2017, China released multiple statements justifying their claim over the Doklam plateau. They cited reasons as to why the Doklam standoff wasn’t really needed. And how China has not intruded into India’s territory to incite the standoff.

On 19th July 2017, China asked India again to withdraw its troops from the Doklam. On 24th July 2017,  Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in his statement, asked India to withdraw and behave themselves to maintain peace.

India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC
India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC

Also Read: Why India Must Counter China’s High-Altitude Land Grab?

What followed till 16th August 2017 was China constantly alleging India of trying to create trouble. They accused India of trying to disturb the peace and not withdrawing the troops, even after repeated reminders. They also accused India of bullying.

India, however, kept quiet during the whole fiasco, only releasing a statement regarding their stand and position at the Doklam standoff.

On 28 August 2017, India and China finally announced that they had agreed to pull their troops back from the Doklam standoff. The withdrawal was completed on that very day.

On 7 September 2017, many media reports claimed that both nation’s troops have not left the site completely. They were still patrolling the area, simply having moved 150 meters away from their previous position.

On 9 October 2017, China announced that it is ready to maintain peace with India at the frontiers. India reacted in affirmative, the peace was established when Indian Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s visited Nathu La.

The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay
The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay

The Doklam issue, for now, is resolved. However, given the history of disputes between India and China, it won’t be a surprise if the issue resurfaces again in near future.