The clear victory of the Congress Party alliance in the legislative elections held between mid-April and mid-May is considered a positive result for the Doha Round reports Agrapresse1. The incumbent Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, was reappointed, is thus in a position to form “a strong and stable government” and seems inclined to bring the WTO negotiations to fruition.
The outgoing Government’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Kamal Nath, who could be reappointed to the post, stated, “it is now more important than ever to conclude the Doha Round, which is one of the measures to be implemented so that the global economy does not go into a tailspin”, before adding “and India wants to be a leader in the field”. As for the Indian Secretary of Trade, G.K. Pillai, “there will be a small ministerial meeting in Geneva next November to assess the situation” so that “ministerial meetings can be held in January/February 2010”.
Yet, it was India that headed a front of several emerging countries in July 2008 to oppose the conclusion of the Round, hoping for a special safeguard mechanism to grant better protection to its impoverished farmers. In India, agriculture––which employs 60 percent of the working population––is for 80 percent composed of farmers owning less than one hectare (2.47 acres) of land. Still largely traditional, Indian agriculture lags well behind in terms of mechanization and thus remains less productive than other nations. In addition, Indian agricultural production increases by 1.2 percent per year while the population grows by 1.9 percent every year. This discrepancy produced an inflation rate of close to six percent. The debt affects one farmer out of two and has led 85,000 farmers to suicide between 2001 and 2005.
In this context, it appears doubtful that India has changed its position on the special safeguard mechanism, which shelters its small farmers and, a fortiori, most of its population. India’s recent stance therefore denotes more a political signal towards the international community regarding its intents to restart cooperation than a sincere wish to conclude the Doha Round for its economic fallout… still poorly assessed at this time. The only remaining question is the following: if the United States and the European Union agree to lower their demands regarding the special safeguard mechanism, will a WTO agreement come about? The question remains unanswered.
1 “Results of the Indian elections are deemed positive for the Doha Round”, Agrapresse, May 25, 2009 isue.