, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 16 – US Trade Representative Michael Froman says America is focused on achieving a measured but meaningful package of outcomes related to the Doha Development Agenda including that of agriculture.
According to Froman, the US is willing to work with other parties to achieve that very difficult set of negotiations.
“Our view is that, the issues of the Doha Development including the focus on development are critically important. The question is, can we build consensus about what the best way to do so if the framework we have today is not yielding success? Are there better ways of thinking how to make sure the development issues are dealt with in a more successful way?” Froman said while addressing the media at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on arrival for the World Trade Organisation ministerial conference.
Froman has been outspoken on his stand against the Doha Agreement. In an article appearing on Financial Times, for instance, Froman says the agenda should be replaced because it has not delivered.
The Doha Development Agenda has been around for 14 years having been conceived in 2001. It is a cycle of negotiations under the World Trade Organisation umbrella, which seeks to focus on helping developing countries join the global marketplace and as a result, boost their economies in the process.
As told by The Guardian, this agenda seeks to cut down import taxes (tariffs) on everything, especially agricultural produce which makes up a huge percentage of what developing countries send to the developed world.
That way, developing countries, especially the least developed, would have enhanced market access, balanced rules, and well targeted, sustainably financial technical assistance and capacity-building programmes, according to the World Trade Organisation.
Its discussion areas included agriculture, non-agricultural market access, services and trade facilitation among others.
The aim of the agriculture agenda for instance, to reduce or as appropriate eliminate tariffs, including the reduction or elimination of high tariffs, tariff peaks and tariff escalation as well as non-tariff barriers, in particular on products of export interest to developing countries.
So why is the US against it?
“The US is still working to secure a package of measured but meaningful results, but what cannot be achieved in Nairobi will not be achieved by trying again with the same failed approach. Pretending otherwise would intensify the search for solutions outside the WTO, raising questions about its relevance in trade negotiations,” Froman wrote on Financial Times.
His view is supported by the EU which says that the Agenda should be bolstered by the inclusion of additional issues such as investment and ecommerce, which poses major challenges for today’s global trade.
Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Amina Mohammed, among other delegates, has strongly stated that the Doha Agenda should not be altered saying that it is the one the delegates should be negotiating on.
Her sentiments have been supported by India’s Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who called out to the delegation to not continue with the rhetoric of a development agenda, ‘without even a reasonable attempt to address issues which are of primary concern to developing economies’.
At the same event, the US and Chinese governments failed to reach consensus on the WTO Information Technology Agreement after the Chinese Minister of Commerce, Gao Hucheng, failed to show up to the scheduled meeting citing conflicting travel times.
The deal would have seen the two countries enter into an agreement that would have facilitated the reduction of tariffs on Information, Communication and technology products.
Froman however said that the negotiations between the two countries would continue to reach to a favourable consensus.