Press Statement

The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:

Despite some resistance put up by the Indian delegation and some other countries, the WTO ministerial level negotiations at Doha constitutes another setback for the developing countries. The developed countries led by the USA, using the backdrop of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US have bulldozed their agenda of strengthening their economic hegemony over the developing world undermining in many ways the sovereignty of independent countries.

The Vajpayee government had declared that it would oppose the proposed new round of negotiations i.e. the extension of the WTO agenda covering new areas and instead seek a review of the implementation of the WTO provisions so far. The final declaration has failed to meet this expectation on both counts. The two crucial sectors in the review of implementation i.e. agriculture and textiles have virtually remained what they are. The agricultural subsidies of the developed countries have increased after 1994, when the WTO was launched, and subsidised goods continue to flood the third world markets. While countries like India have withdrawn quantitative restrictions, the absence of any review of this issue will continue to threaten the livelihood of millions of Indian farmers. In this sense the Vajpayee government has let down the Indian people.

In the final declaration, the seeds of a new round have clearly been sown. The establishment of a "Trade Negotiations Committee" and the declaration that the entire negotiations will be treated as a "single undertaking" should leave nobody in doubt about this fact. Moreover, the draft clearly states that it recognises "the case for a multilateral framework" in both the areas of investment and competition policy. What has been achieved by developing countries is a temporary reprieve. Negotiations setting the parameters of agreements in the areas of investment and trade, and competition policy will be initiated forthwith, but they will be termed as "clarifications". The formal term of "negotiations" is to be applied to these areas at the Fifth Session of the Ministerial Conference, two years later.

The other issue that has dominated the run up to the Doha meeting has been the issue of access to essential medicines in the context of the Trade Related Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement under WTO. The WTO has been forced to take note of the hostile global reaction to the inhuman effects of the TRIPS accord. A separate declaration on TRIPS and public health has been issued that clarifies that TRIPS allows the use of compulsory licenses for drugs that are required to meet public health emergencies. This is, in a manner, a small victory for the global campaign on access, but the response by the WTO still falls short of the requirements. By circulating a separate draft on the issue, and not incorporating it in the draft ministerial text, the attempt is clearly to ensure that the basic TRIPS agreement is not "tampered with". At best, the concession being offered is that the TRIPS agreement can be more "liberally" interpreted in the light of concerns related to public health. The wider issue of TRIPs constricting the development and dissemination of technology in developing countries and strengthening the hold of private monopolies in knowledge and technology in general, at the cost of public welfare and development, has remained untouched.

Even for these small concessions, the developing countries have had to pay a high price. The final draft has brought in the issues of environment and labour standards.. The earlier draft (27th October) contained the formulation that ILO is the body for substantial discussions on labour issues; the final statement has deleted all references to ILO indicating it can be taken up at a later stage by the WTO. Both these issues will be used by developed countries to raise non-tariff barriers in order to protect their markets against exports by developing countries. On the other hand, little progress has taken place on "implementation" issues; the bulk of the concerns of developing countries have been incorporated only as a part of the new negotiations. Thus, any "concessions" on agricultural subsidies and reduction of restrictions on textile exports to developed countries, will lead to demands for counter "concessions" on investments, competition policy, Government procurement, etc. This was precisely the reason that the developing countries had asked that implementation issues arising out of the Uruguay round should be discussed before a new round.

Clearly, the position taken by India of resisting such an outcome could not be successful for various reasons. India’s credibility as a leader of the third world countries opposing the US hegemonic interests came under serious cloud following the subservience displayed by the Vajpayee government to US imperialist interests over the past three years especially since September 11. The Indian government had already opened up insurance to competition when the WTO agreement still does not require it. It removed quantitative restrictions before it was needed under WTO rules. Secondly, proper homework in the sense of negotiating and mobilising the other third world countries particularly the group of African nations and others who were resisting such an outcome at Doha was not undertaken by the Indian government. Under these circumstances, India’s resistance at this late state was ineffective.

India must utilise the coming two years before the next round of negotiations to take the lead in mobilising other third world countries and governments to ensure that the blueprint for economic recolonisation of the third world drawn up by the US and its allies will not get legalised. In the meanwhile, the Vajpayee government must take all necessary measures, like a hefty increase in import duties to protect the interests of the Indian farmers and domestic producers. Unless this is done, untold miseries are bound to be imposed on the Indian people. The Indian people must be mobilised to continue the struggle against the iniquitous order sought to be imposed through the WTO.