Understanding India’s trade discussion strategy at Nairobi

India has strongly mobilized the opinion of the developing world in favor of the Special and Safeguard Measures all of a sudden. Couple of months back, the SSM was not an agenda at the pre – Ministerial Conference discussions.

The late activation of the SSM constitutes an important strategy of India’s trade discussions at Nairobi. This is because WTO is such a forum where countries exchanges concessions in a reciprocal manner. If India has to get a concession say in the form of permission to its food procurement, it has to give a concession to the opposite group- the developed countries n another issue like the new issues.

Now, at Nairobi, the advanced countries are bringing several news issues to broaden the agenda. The new issues are environment, government procurement, e commerce etc.

On the other side, until few weeks back the main issue of the developing world was food procurement to ensure food security to the poor. The developing countries led by India were demanding to treat food security related food procurement as a permissible subsidy.

Certainly, the developing countries are not in a mood to accept the new issues at Nairobi.  The unfinished Doha Development Agenda which is a main concern of the developing world is a hurdle to take new issues.  

In this context, there is every chance that a battle between the developed bloc supported new issues and the India promoted food procurement subsidy issue may lock horn. At the end of the day both sides may disagree to each other’s concern, ending to India’s hope of ratifying its food subsidy programme.

It is to overcome such a potential scenario that New Delhi has brought the SSM from nowhere. The SSM is the agenda of larger number of developing countries compared to the food procurement issue. Thus there is every likely chance that the SSM will battle against the new issues.

This will shield the food procurement subsidy from the wrath of the developed world. As food procurement subsidy is the immediate as well as the important concern and trade interest of India, raising the SSM and placing it against the developed countries’ new issues will help to avoid oposition from them on food procurement subsidy.

The urgency of the food procurement subsidy issue is that it has to be ratified as a permissible subsidy by the twelfth MC or within the next two years. Hence a ratification of the food subsidy programme to the poor remains the primary objective of the country at Nairobi.