DEVELOPMENT CONCERNS SHOULD BE CENTRESTAGE AT CANCUN, SAYS JAITLEY
INFORMED PUBLIC DEBATE VITAL FOR SUCCESS OF NEGOTIATIONS
NATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON TRADE AND GLOBALISATION: AGENDA TOWARDS CANCUN INAUGURATED
Date : 18 Aug 2003
Location : New Delhi
Shri Arun Jaitley, Minister of Commerce & Industry and Law & Justice, has said that development concerns should be brought to the centrestage of the negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) both on the road to Cancun as well as at Cancun, especially in agriculture, if a positive outcome is to be achieved at the WTO Ministerial Conference next month. Inaugurating a National Symposium on "Trade & Globalisation: The Agenda towards Cancun 2003", organised by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry in collaboration with the UNCTAD & UNDP, here today, Shri Jaitley said that agricultural negotiations had "serious economic, social and political ramifications which would weigh the most in our minds. The 650 million people in the country dependent on agriculture are adversely affected by the high level of subsidisation in developed countries….. Therefore, there must be gradual reduction and eventual elimination of such subsidies as our farmers cannot compete with the heavily subsidised products of the developed world. We would need comfort levels both in terms of tariff protection and special safeguards against surge in imports". He said that reform of the European Union (EU)’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was inadequate, being obviously constrained by the domestic politics of the constituent states. He explained that it was easier for the developed countries to market reforms since they had already enjoyed the fruits of development and underlined the urgent need for an objective public discourse on the implications of trade liberalisation and globalisation.
Shri Jaitley said that the TRIPs and Public Health issue should be resolved and in non-agricultural market access – i.e., industrial tariff negotiations, sectors which were large employment generators such as small scale industries (SSI) would need continued protection in view of the sensitivities involved. He also stressed the need to redress asymmetries in the pace of post-Doha negotiations whereby negotiations in areas of interest to the developed countries progressed at a faster pace while those of interest to developing countries were slow. "Areas of critical interest to developing countries like India, namely, resolution of the TRIPs and Public Health impasse, adequacy of implementation related package, time-bound negotiations of the framework for special & differential treatment for developing countries, as agreed at Doha, have to be brought back on the radar screen", Shri Jaitley said. On investment, Shri Jaitley made it clear that the very appropriateness of bringing it into the multilateral regime was being questioned and views were expressed that Cancun may not be the occasion for explicit consensus on such a sensitive and complex issue.
Shri Dipak Chatterjee, Commerce Secretary; Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Director/UNCTAD; and Mr. Maurice Dewulf of UNDP also addressed the inaugural session. On this occasion, Shri Jaitley also launched the website of the Government of India-UNCTAD-DFID project on "Strategies and Preparedness for Trade and Globalisation in India" – which is the first ever bi-lingual website on the subject. Shri R. Gopalan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, proposed a vote of thanks.
Shri Chatterjee said that the Symposium was very timely and would contribute to clarifying ideas about stakes involved in the intensive discussions currently going on in Geneva. Shri Jaitley said the Symposium was being held at a very appropriate time with the next WTO Ministerial Conference at Cancun barely 3 weeks away.
Ms. Lakshmi Puri, speaking on behalf of UNCTAD, said that while Cancun would be a process, not its culmination and a journey, not its destination, it was important for developing countries including India to prepare for the accelerated negotiating process which was now going on in Geneva in the run up to Cancun. On why WTO negotiations mattered for India, she cited three reasons: (a) With more than 50% of world trade being covered today by existing or emerging regional trade arrangements (RTAs) and India being mostly out of such arrangements, had considerable stakes in the multilateral trading system. (b) In order to achieve one percent of global trade and the 2020 vision of a developed country, the platform of a non-discriminatory, rule-based multilateral trading system was required to focus on trade, investment and technology transfer. And (c) India’s standing as well as stakes were high as many saw this country not only as a large and growing economy but as a very large market. The elements of a strategic calculus for negotiations should, therefore, include knowing about capacities in each sector and framing suitable medium or long term plans upto 2015 and calibration of domestic concerns with multilateral trade related liberalisation. She also highlighted the urgent need to address the issue of market entry barriers in both agriculture and non-agriculture sectors e.g., SPS, technical barriers to trade, rules of origin etc., and for entering into alliances. Mr. Dewulf of UNDP said that the multilateral trading system was today at the crossroads and Cancun would show whether the imbalances of system would be redressed or not. While benefits were not accruing to all, there were concerns about double standards in implementation and domestic policy space being constrained, he said, adding that the development agenda was not coming through. He suggested drawing up of "vulnerability maps" to address the concerns of developing countries and proposed that the UN millennium goal agenda should be carried forward to Cancun.
The 2-day National Symposium, being held under the aegis of the GOI-UNCTAD-DFID project, is being attended by a large number of national and international experts, academics, NGOs and former ambassadors to the WTO.