Indian experts see "moral victory" in Cancun failure
Experts claim a moral triumph of "have-nots" over "haves" despite failure of Cancun talks.Updated: Sep 16, 2003 18:44 IST
The day after - the WTO Cancun meet - was one of victory to be savoured slowly as Indian experts on Tuesday claimed a moral triumph of the "have-nots" over the "haves".
For once, the balance of power had tilted the other way because the developing world doggedly held on to their position, refusing to give way to the rich countries, delighting India, which led the heroic effort.
The just concluded WTO ministerial conference at Cancun may not have gone the way the developing nations, led by India, China and Brazil, wanted. But it did not go the way of the developed world either.
If the rich nations refused to reduce high agriculture and export subsidies, the developing countries refused to take on board more commitments until they did so.
Saiddirector general of the Research and Information System for the Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries (RIS) Nagesh Kumar: "So far, the negotiations had been going as per the wishes of the rich nations. This time, the developing countries told them this could not continue."
There would be plenty of time for introspection but, for the moment, the euphoria over India's new emerging role as spokesperson for the developing world was palpable.
Kumar, just back from Cancun, said India had received a lot of respect for its principled opposition to rich nations.
"The fact that around 70 countries joined India in expressing their common concerns on various issues showed rich nations that they would have to take note of their concerns next time around," Kumar told IANS.
While this was not the first time that developing countries had come together on a common platform, what made the difference in Cancun was that, for the first time, rich nations failed to break the coalition, said Kumar.
Commonality of interests and distrust of the starting negotiations -- on new issues like competition and investment policy among others -- saw around 70 nations, representing the majority of world's farmers and population, coming together to stall the five-day meeting.
Nobody saw the failure at Cancun as catastrophic, given that failures have been witnessed at previous WTO meetings like the Uruguay Round or Seattle ministerial conference.
They were hopeful that WTO negotiations would proceed on course with the developed nations learning from the standoff. The general council of WTO is expected to meet before December 15 to take necessary action.
According to Anwar-ul Hoda, adviser at Indian Council for Research in International Economic Relations (ICRIER) and former director general of WTO, China's entry into WTO did make some difference.
But it was the unity of the developing world and the cry of mercy of poor countries, particularly African nations, that was expected to have some impact.
Cancun saw African nations revealing how the high subsidies provided to farmers in the European Union and the US had killed their cotton trade.
"It would be a shame if the developed nations do not realise how much harm and suffering they are causing the poor countries," Hoda told IANS.
However, experts also fear a possible fallout of the rich and poor divide.
"The fallout would be more political initially. Hopefully, it would translate into economic benefits for the developing countries once developed nations realise they have to take another track as the hardcore alliance of India, China and Brazil cannot be broken through diplomacy," said Hoda.
But there were some unhappy with the way the Cancun meet went.
India's leadership of the group of 22 developing nations, which came together to foil rich nations' designs of scoring concession on tariff reduction while not agreeing to reduce high subsidies to farmers, may not necessarily work to New Delhi's advantage, said some.
"I don't think this quite the time to rejoice as India and the developing countries missed an opportunity. We have not been quite practical in our negotiations," said economistDH Pai Panandikar.
"Even though India is an agrarian economy, agriculture produce does not dominate our export basket. Instead, export of services is where India has been scoring".
"That is where we should have focussed and not adopted an all or nothing attitude," he said.
The failure of globalisation talks would impact the whole world, which was moving towards a more liberal trade regime and trying to expand trade in farm and industrial goods.
Voicing similar concerns, Hoda said: "This is definitely a setback. Unlike earlier, there is currently more dependence of countries like India on international trade."
Going by past record, experts are also not too sure how long the coalition of developing nations would last given that many like India and China are traditional competitors.
First Published: Sep 16, 2003 18:44 IST