ADDRESS THE DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGE OF DOHA: KAMAL NATH WRITES TO WTO TRADE MINISTERS ON
THE EVE OF GENEVA MINI-MINISTERIAL
Date : 28 Jun 2006
Location : New Delhi
Shri Kamal Nath, Union Minister for Commerce & Industry, has said that the development challenge of the Doha Round must be addressed if the current global trade negotiations are to succeed. In a letter addressed to trade ministers of all member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the eve of the Mini-ministerial meeting in Geneva beginning tomorrow, Mr. Kamal Nath has said this Mini-ministerial meeting would provide “an opportunity to address this issue frontally and substantially”.
“There is a growing disquiet that the contours of the development dimension of this Round are not yet apparent. What does development mean? Surely, it cannot mean displacement of subsistence farmers and de-industrialisation of developing economies”, he said while releasing the letter in London today.
Members must recognise the stark reality that the situations of developed and developing countries differed in at least on crucial aspect – “while the sensitivities of developed countries in matters of trade liberalization involve commercial issues, for developing countries such sensitivities involve the survival and well-being of their poorest citizens, the bulk of whom depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Livelihood security and subsistence of the poor are not negotiable issues”, the Minister has stressed, adding that these two differing sets of concerns were not equal and could not be treated equally.
In agriculture, “it is for this reason that we have been pressing for very substantial reductions in trade distorting subsidies that the developed countries have been providing to their agricultural sectors. It is also for the same reason that we have been insisting that overall tariff reduction commitments by developing countries should at most be two-thirds of those of developed countries. Of critical importance is an adequate number of Special Products and an effective Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) instrument that can provide a modicum of protection to farmers in developing countries”, he said.
In the area of industrial tariffs also, Mr. Kamal Nath emphasised that developing countries should not be prevented from developing their infant industrial sectors. “An over-ambitious programme of tariff liberalization can permanently foreclose the possibility of industrial development in many developing countries – in some cases, actually leading to de-industrialisation”, he cautioned.
In services, he pointed out that movement of goods was also linked to movement of people and indicated that “if even non-immigration commitments are sought to be denied on the plea of sensitivities, it will not be possible to arrive at a balanced outcome in these negotiations”.
The issue of non-tariff barriers (NTBs), abuse of anti-dumping provisions etc. must be dealt with effectively and prevention of bio-piracy and preserving traditional knowledge must be ensured by addressing the issue of TRIPS and Convention on Bio-diversity (CBD) relationship, he said.
A balanced outcome across these different areas would require crystallizing the development character of the Doha Round to meet the aspirations of WTO’s diverse membership and members must demonstrate the political will to do this, he emphasised.