A joint statement by African and Indian civil society
2015-10-27, Issue 748
In a joint statement released and endorsed by nearly 200 organisations across Africa and India on the occasion of the Third India-Africa Forum Summit taking place in New Delhi this week, African and Indian civil society remind their governments of the key issues at stake at the forthcoming WTO Ministerial which will take place in Nairobi in December.
We, on behalf of civil society in Africa and India, write to you, the Heads of Governments in Africa’s 54 countries and India, as you meet for the Third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-III) through the 26-29th October in New Delhi, India. As you all deliberate on a ‘reinvigorated partnership-shared vision’, we would urge you to consider the common economic, social and environmental challenges that all our countries face, while reminding you of the issues at stake at the forthcoming Tenth Ministerial Conference (MC10) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, between December 15-18th this year.
One of the main objectives of the WTO was to create more opportunities for the developing world, and even more so for least developed countries (LDCs), so they could advance their development progress. As a result, the world was to see a more balanced economic and, hopefully, socially just order. However, after twenty years of the WTO, we do not see any materialisation of those promises from global trade rules. In spite of some strengthening of developing country voices, the developed countries and the transnational corporations within them have grown more powerful, strident and aggressive. They have made it clear that they are interested in the WTO only to “take” from and not to “give” to developing countries. The current Director General, Roberto Azevedo, (himself from a developing country) and the WTO Secretariat and it’s functionaries, are taking pro-developed country positions in the desperation to retain WTO’s relevance as a multilateral forum.
In fact, even the WTO’s Doha Development Round, launched in 2001 and mandated to address core development issues faced by the South, continues to see stiff opposition by the developed countries to any concessions for developing countries and to removal of barriers, which could actually enable them to provide better economic and social opportunities to their people. Special and differential (S&D) treatment in agriculture and NAMA, for example through easier terms for tariff cuts, Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) in agriculture, preferential Rules of Origin for LDCs, and most importantly talks on agricultural subsidies, including the crucial issue of cotton subsidies, given by the West have failed to get anywhere. In this context we strongly support the statement made by the Kenyan Foreign Minister, Honourable Ms Amina Mohamed on July 1, that the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations cannot be concluded without “credible” developmental outcomes.
It is not only that the WTO is not helping realize development pathways in the South; it is actively threatening development policy space and development-oriented programmes in the developing world. The stiff resistance by the USA, EU, and other developed countries to negotiate a permanent solution to the food security proposal and a development-oriented outcome in agriculture, which is not only of key interest to India and several African countries, but also to many other developing countries, is a clear evidence of this challenge.
Agriculture and food, and the ability to continue to produce food, is a core development need in both India and Africa. We would like to also support the position of the Cotton-4 countries on elimination of all subsidies on cotton and Duty-Free-Quota-Free (DFQF) market access to LDCs on cotton and its products, which is of key interest to African countries as well as India.
In NAMA (non-agricultural market access), the developed countries continue to insist not only on adverse formulas on tariff cuts that will force developing countries to cut more tariffs, but also on “Sectorals or zero-for-zero” where some sectors will see total elimination of tariffs with immediate effect. The NAMA proposals will severely limit domestic industrialization and job creation prospects in Africa and India.
The TRIPS Agreement under the WTO set up intellectual property rights (IPRs) standards which are being pushed through trade rules; it creates barriers to technology development and transfer in developing countries with impacts on access to medicines and health care, key agricultural inputs including seeds varieties and traditional knowledge. However, the TRIPs Agreement had offered some flexibilities to developing countries that could help them protect important development priorities. These flexibilities are now being increasingly challenged. Moreover, the TRIPS waiver for LDCs is continuously under negotiation and is used as a lever to extract other concessions. Now developed countries are opposing amendments to TRIPS Rules to prevent ‘biopiracy’ from Africa, India and several other developing countries.
The current WTO situation presents grave contradictions. Instead of creating spaces to foster growth and development, we see more and more aggressive demands are made of developing countries to prise open their economies on very unfair terms, which would threaten livelihoods, food security, locally beneficial industrialization and beneficiation (local value addition). The current negotiations at the WTO clearly indicate these contradictions, created by the aggressive positioning of the developed countries: pushing a binding Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) while not granting a permanent solution to food security and offering only a “best endeavor” (I will try my best) LDC package; offering no cuts in domestic subsidies, but instead asking developing countries to cut subsidies and grant further market access; and blocking TRIPs flexibilities while pushing for higher IPR protection through TRIPs.
Further, the developed countries are creating parallel and aggressive mechanisms through secret negotiations of plurilateral agreements such as Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), Information Technology Agreement-2 (ITA-2), Agreement in Environmental Goods and Services, and bilateral trade and investment agreements all of which thwart the multilateral nature of the WTO.
As you discuss issues of critical importance for us, for your people, at this important Summit, we put on the table the following specific recommendations that civil society in India and across African countries want to put forward to their leaders:
• Ensure a strong development outcome at the Nairobi MC10 of WTO with significant gains for developing and least developed countries. The “success” of the Ministerial should not be valued in terms of reaching the low hanging fruits, which favours developed countries, but one that actually equips developing countries to address key economic, social and environmental needs;
• The Doha Development Round should not be concluded in Nairobi or later without a meaningful development package and no other round should be launched without addressing the core development issues that the DDR was mandated to address. In particular, the Singapore Issues including government procurement, competition policy, investment and any “new issues” would severely restrict space for implementing development oriented policies and hence should not be touched;
• Specific deliverables of a development package should include but not be limited to; a permanent solution on the food security proposal that allows essential subsidies to producers for supporting public food stockholding; discussions on domestic subsidies including on cotton subsidies, by the advanced countries like the USA and the EU, an agreement on elimination of export competition, special and differential treatment (S&DT) for developing countries in all aspects of agricultural and NAMA negotiations including on tariff cuts and safeguard mechanisms, ‘Biodiversity Amendment’ to the TRIPS Agreement to prevent ‘biopiracy’, and a strong LDC package. On the other hand, further advances in and weakening of the flexibilities of the TRIPs Agreement, the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and further talks on plurilaterals and mega regional FTAs should be blocked; and,
• Conduct the negotiations in a transparent, inclusive and fair manner that truly reflects the multilateral nature of the WTO and not participate in small ‘green room’ discussions and dealings that leave a large number of Member States out of discussions that would critically impact their people and the planet.
India and Africa have played a key role in WTO negotiations, most often supporting strong developing country positions. They have a crucial role to play in this Ministerial. It is of tremendous importance that the WTO Ministerial Conference is being held in Africa. As a strong and articulate advocate of developing country space in the WTO, the African countries, and Kenya in particular, has a responsibility to ensure a balanced and development friendly outcome at the Ministerial. The “success” of the Ministerial will only be a success if it delivers on key development objectives of the South that includes the interests of the people in Africa and India and benefits all people in the developing world. If it can’t, it is of no interest to us.
Working together, India and Africa must ensure our people have access to diversified opportunities for livelihoods, jobs and incomes, healthy food to eat and the ability to produce it locally, have access to adequate services, such as drinking water, health and sanitation, natural resources, and live in a safe and sustainable environment. No trade rules should come in the way of attaining these objectives. The WTO in particular must be allowed only to forward and not to hinder these objectives.
Our leaders must also remember the commitments they made in the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is to “leave no one behind”. They know it will be impossible to follow the principles of this Agenda and meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without fair trade rules and other means of implementation. That is why they fought so hard on these issues in these negotiations. But unless they hold strong against pressures and keep reiterating their development priorities and fight for the policy space to realise those, their commitments to the global community and to their own people will be meaningless. The WTO and the Nairobi Ministerial is the place where this commitment must be made real.
As Kenya prepares to host the WTO’s MC10, we urge you to keep in your mind your people and their needs, and not to put trade before people. As all of you prepare to engage with the WTO until December and beyond, you must ask yourselves the questions: What has the WTO done for us so far? What can I gain here that I can justify my engagement with the WTO to my people? What can I take back from Delhi, India that helps us all move trade and development in the right direction? We are all waiting eagerly to hear the answers from you.
Signatories as on 27 October 2015
For more details please contact:
1. Ranja Sengupta, Senior Researcher, Third World Network, E-mail:
2. Stefano Prato, Managing Director and Editor, Development, Society for International
Development, E-mail: email@example.com
3. Biraj Patnaik, Right to Food Campaign, India, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Manicandan, Coordinator, Our World is Not for Sale (OWINFS), India, E-mail:
1) Shri. Narendra Modi, Hon’ble Prime Minister, Government of India
2) Smt. Sushma Swaraj, Hon’ble Minister of External Affairs, Government of India
3) Smt. Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, Hon’ble Minister for Commerce and Industry, Government of India
4) H.E. Prime Minister, Abdelmalek Sellal, Algeria
5) H.E. Vice President, Manuel Vicente, Angola
6) H.E. President, Yayi Boni, Benin
7) H.E. Foreign Minister, Phandu Skelemani, Botswana
8) H.E. President, Blaise Compaoré, Burkina Faso
9) H.E. President, Pierre Nkurunziza, Burundi
10) H.E. President, Jorge Carlos Fonseca, Cape Verde
11) H.E. President, Idriss Déby, Chad
12) H.E. President, Paul Biya, Cameroon
13) H.E. President, Ikililou Dhoinine, Comoros
14) H.E. Prime Minister, Daniel Kablan Duncan, Cote d’Ivoire
15) H.E. President, Denis Sassou Nguesso, Congo–Brazaville
16) H.E. President, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, Djibouti
17) H.E. President, Joseph Kabila , DR Congo
18) H.E. Prime Minister, Sherif Ismail, Egypt
19) H.E. President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Equatorial Guinea
20) H.E. Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia
21) H.E. President, Ali Bongo Ondimba, Gabon
22) H.E. President, Yahya Jammeh, Gambia
23) H.E. President, John Dramani Mahama, Ghana
24) H.E. President, Alpha Condé , Guinea
25) H.E. President, José Mário Vaz, Guinea-Bissau
26) H.E. President, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya
27) H.E. Prime Minister, Tom Thabane, Lesotho
28) H.E. Vice President, Joseph Boakai, Liberia
29) H.E. Prime Minister, Abdullah al-Thani, Libya
30) H.E. President, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, Madagascar
31) H.E. President, Peter Mutharika, Malawi
32) H.E. President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, Mali
33) H.E. President, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Mauritania
34) H.E. Prime Minister, Navin Ramgoolam, Mauritius
35) H.E. Prime Minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, Morocco
36) H.E. President, Armando Guebuza, Mozambique
37) H.E. President, Hifikepunye Pohamba, Namibia
38) H.E. President, Mahamadou Issoufou, Niger
39) H.E. President, Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria
40) H.E. President, Paul Kagame, Rwanda
41) H.E. Prime Minister, Gabriel Costa, São Tomé and Príncipe
42) H.E. President, Macky Sall, Senegal
43) H.E. President, James Michel , Seychelles
44) H.E. Foreign Minister, Samura Kamara, Sierra Leone
45) H.E. President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Somalia
46) H.E. President, Jacob Zuma, South Africa
47) H.E. President, Salva Kiir Mayardit, South Sudan
48) H.E. President, Omar Hassan Ahamed Albashir, Sudan
49) H.E. King, Mswati III, Swaziland
50) H.E. President, Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania
51) H.E. President, Faure Gnassingbe, Togo
52) H.E. President, Moncef Marzouki, Tunisia
53) H.E. President, Yoweri Museveni, Uganda
54) H.E. Acting President, Guy Scott, Zambia
Also copied to heads of African missions in New Delhi.