Indian Commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman represented India at the Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi. Photo: PTI
Indian Commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman represented India at the Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi. Photo: PTI

NEW DELHI: After hectic negotiations for five days–exceeding the scheduled closing by almost 24 hours–the WTO Trade Ministers concluded their talks this evening without any commitment by rich countries to check subsidies.

The objective of the talks was to lower barriers, increase trade and help developing countries. A large majority of countries wanted reaffirmation of the Doha mandate and work programme at the Nairobi ministerial.

The Doha round of trade talks was launched in the Qatari capital in 2001 and has remain stalled because of the deep divide between rich countries and developing nations on several issues, including farm subsidies.

Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said India put across its position very clearly on the table and strongly “protested” against the failure to reach an unanimity on “reaffirmation” to conclude over 14-year-old Doha round to safeguard developing nations’ interest.

However, the members of the global trade body agreed on a commitment for giving the developing nations a right to take recourse to Special Safeguard Mechanism to protect their farmers — a long-standing demand of India.

Lobbying by India and other developing countries also led to reaffirmation to decisions taken earlier at WTO (World Trade Organisation) on the issue of public stockholding, which gives protection to farmers. “The decisions taken here will form the part from where work will begin on it to give a permanent solution,” Sitharaman told PTI.

“We have done our best that we can in such a situation. Most of the commitments given by the WTO to us are carried forward with complete assurance and we have not lost any ground,” she added.

Sitharaman however said that “India is disappointed that notwithstanding a large group – India, China, G33, African Union — all of us insisting that Doha has to be reaffirmed , the reaffirmation has been divided. We are thoroughly disappointed on this score”.

“It was a fight to safeguard India’s interest on all these three scores which we have gained according to me,” Sitharaman said.

She said the Ministerial Declaration, circulated tonight after completion of the talks, “reflects the division amongst the WTO Membership on the issue of the reaffirmation of the Doha mandate”. While the majority were in favour of such reaffirmation, a few members opposed the reaffirmation. This marks a significant departure from the fundamental WTO principle of consensus-based decision making.