SOME ISSUES IN WTO NON-NEGOTIABLE FOR INDIA, SAYS KAMAL NATH DEFENCE OF AGRICULTURE OF PRIME IMPORTANCE CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE OF COMMERCE & INDUSTRY MEETS
Date : 04 Jul 2005
Location : New Delhi
Shri Kamal Nath, Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, has today made it clear that certain issues in the ongoing World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations are non-negotiable for India. In agriculture, there is no question of accepting any kind of Swiss formula for tariff reduction, in whatever garb and in non-agricultural market access (NAMA), India will resist proposals for reduction from the applied rates. Tariff reduction commitments by developing countries should provide for adequate policy space and reflect their development needs, Shri Kamal Nath said while presiding over the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry here this morning. “Developed countries subsidise their agriculture to the extent of one billion dollars a day and about 25 to 50% is the subsidy component in the agricultural exports of many developed countries. We cannot allow this... Safeguarding our interests especially in sensitive sectors such as agriculture and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will be our main concern”, he said. In services, he said India would calibrate its offers with the quality of offers from its major trading partners in sectors and modes of interest to India.
India would also strongly resist attempts to divide developing countries by differentiating the so-called advanced or large developing countries from others, he said.
The Minister said it was at the same time extremely important for India to remain actively engaged in the WTO process which was all about framing the rules of world trade and not leave rule making to a handful of countries as had happened in the GATT. “India should actively participate in framing world trade rules which should be not only equitable to India but to the entire developing world”, he said, adding that the real challenge would be to harmonise India’s offensive and defensive interests in different areas of WTO negotiations.
Members who participated were: S/Shri Sudhangshu Seal, Sharad Anantrao Joshi, Sarvey Sathyanarayana, Basangouda Patil, Harin Pathak, K.C. Palanisamy, Ram Singh Kaswan, Shyama Charan Gupta, S. Rama Muni Reddy and Rajeev Shukla. Shri E.V.K.S. Elangovan, Minister of State for Commerce & Industry, also attended.
Responding to issues raised by Shri Sharad Joshi, Shri Kamal Nath explained that member countries meeting in groups to discuss issues was not compatmentalisation and would not in any way disturb the multilateral negotiating process. He agreed with the member on concerns relating to Blue Box and Amber Box and said that India was fighting for greater discipline in the Boxes for domestic subsidies so as to ensure that farmers were protected from heavily subsidised imports from the West. In this context, he recalled that India had fought hard for the inclusion of Special Products or SP (which would have no tariff reduction or minimal tariff reduction) and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM), which provided for safeguards in case of import surge in agriculture both in terms of volume and price to protect farmers’ interests.
Shri Kamal Nath said India was actively engaged in consensus building or coalitions – as it was in India’s interest to avert isolation – through issue-based alliances such as G-20 on agriculture; G-33 on SP & SSM; ABI (Argentina, Brazil, India) alliance on NAMA; Friends of Mode 4, and others in Services; and Friends of GIs (Geographical Indications). He said that government would further intensify domestic stakeholder consultations with political parties, industry & farmers association, labour unions & civil society and states & union territories on WTO issues in the next 6 months, in the run up to the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December, 2005. He urged members to interact with him and provide their inputs and suggestions.
Replying to Shri Harin Pathak, the Minister informed that India was actively pursuing the issue of harmonising TRIPs (Trade related Intellectual Property Rights) with the Convention on Bio-Diversity (CBD) with a view to protecting Traditional Knowledge which was an important concern for India. In response to Shri Sudhangshu Seal, who had raised the issue of fruits and vegetable exports, the Minister said the government was looking at the issue of transport subsidy for agricultural products as a whole and hoped that problems in the area would be resolved soon in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture. Shri Kamal Nath said that he would also announce a package of rejuvenation for tea industry within six weeks.
Earlier, in a presentation before the Committee, Shri G.K. Pillai, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, indicated that the major areas of negotiations in the current Doha Round were: Doha Work Programme, Market Access (agriculture, industrial tariffs or non-agricultural market access (NAMA), services); Development Issues (Implementation, Special & Differential Treatment); Rules (Anti-dumping, Subsidies, RTAs); and Other issues (Singapore issues of which only trade facilitation remains, environment, TRIPs related issues and Dispute Settlement Understanding).