IBSA MINISTERS TO MEET ANNUALLY AGREES TO TAKE FORWARD NEGOTIATIONS IN INDIA MERCOSUR SACU FRAMEWORK
Date : 02 Dec 2009
Location : New Delhi
During the trilateral Ministerial meeting of IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) last evening, the three Ministers agreed to take forward the negotiations in the India-MERCOSUR-SACU framework. IBSA Ministers also agreed to meet annually on a rotational basis beginning early next year. The coming together of India, Brazil and South Africa for strengthening economic partnership can be seen as a major development in the area of South-South Cooperation. Total intra IBSA trade which was US$ 10.34 billion in 2007 had reached a figure of US$ 14.56 billion in 2008. There are significant synergies between the three countries that can be utilized for collective benefit and development of the three countries and the South, in general.
Speaking at the Working Session of the Seventh Ministerial Conference of the WTO on "Review of WTO Activities, including the Doha Work Programme", Shri Sharma observed that if the Doha Round was to be concluded by 2010, efforts had to be made to tackle and resolve the major issues in the negotiations. Noting that progress in the last three months had been far below expectations, Shri Sharma shared India’s assessment of the state of play of negotiations.
Regarding the agriculture negotiations, Shri Sharma observed that there were two challenges, i.e. (a) the necessity for a high ambition outcome in the elimination or reduction of subsidies and removal of market access barriers in developed countries, and (b) the fact that for developing countries, agriculture was not about commerce, but about survival and livelihoods. Flexibilities such as Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanism were critical for safeguarding livelihoods, food and income security. The modalities have to take care of the large population dependent on agriculture in developing countries.
The success of the Doha Round, he said, would be judged on how these two challenges were addressed. He noted that important issues relating to domestic subsidies had barely been discussed. In the area of market access, issues such as sensitive products, tariff rate quotas, tariff simplification, tariff capping etc. - all defensive concerns of developed countries - clearly required further work. On tropical products and preference erosion, which were issues of great interest to India, a multilateral discussion was yet to take place. On the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM), which was the subject of considerable debate during the July 2008 mini-Ministerial and in the months thereafter, there had been some limited exchanges but clearly the issue was far from convergence.
As regards the negotiations on industrial goods, that is, Non-agricultural Market Access (NAMA), Shri Sharma stated that India considered the issue of formula and flexibilities as broadly stabilised except for some country-specific flexibilities still to be negotiated. He noted the constructive engagement on Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs), an important determinant of market access. Speaking strongly on the subject of sectoral initiatives, Shri Sharma stated that the issue was hugely problematic; India was firmly of the view that sectorals would have to be voluntary in nature.
In the Services negotiations, Shri Sharma emphasised that an ambitious outcome on domestic regulations was as important as market access. He also called for serious engagement on subsidies. He expressed disappointment at the signals received during the Signalling Conference in July 2008.
On fisheries subsidies, Shri Sharma reiterated that India’s core concern about the protection of the livelihoods of India’s small and artisanal fishermen must be addressed and said that while saving we should not forget to protect the fishermen while seeking to protect the fish.
On Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), he observed that progress was still elusive. More than a hundred Members had demanded a clear outcome on the TRIPS-CBD relationship and GI (Geographical Indications) extension as part of the outcome. While the Director General’s consultations on these issues had led to greater technical clarity, the political element was still missing. He stressed the need to continue this process with a sense of urgency to achieve a good outcome.
On the sidelines of the Seventh Ministerial Conference of the WTO, Shri Anand Sharma, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, met the US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, last evening, for a discussion on the Doha Round and a range of bilateral issues. Shri Sharma also had bilateral discussions with the Trade Ministers of Egypt, Tanzania, UAE, Thailand, Japan, Zambia, Norway, Iran and Kenya.
Shri Sharma is scheduled to participate at a Working Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference on "The WTO’s Contribution to Recovery, Growth and Development" in Geneva today. He will also attend a Ministerial Session of the Negotiating Committee of the GSTP (Global System of Trade Preferences) among Developing Countries.