INDIA FOCUSSES ON DEVELOPMENT AGENDA AT WTO
JAITLEY SPELLS OUT PRIORITIES FOR CANCUN
Date : 16 Feb 2003
Location : New Delhi
India has forcefully articulated the need to restore the development agenda as the central focus of WTO negotiations, as mandated in the Doha Ministerial Declaration. All the major WTO issues were reviewed at the informal meeting of the Ministers of Trade and Agriculture of about 20 World Trade Organisation (WTO) member countries held in Tokyo from 14-16 February 2003, at the invitation of the Government of Japan. Participating in the discussions, Mr. Arun Jaitley, Ministerof Commerce and Industry and Law and Justice, Government of India, strongly expressed India's concern over the slow progress in the area of development-related issues such as, TRIPS and Public Health, Implementation issues and Special and Differential Treatment issues and categorically stated that the resolution of these issues would be a sine qua non for the success of the next Ministerial Conference of the WTO at Cancun in September 2003. India was strongly supported on this by the other participating developing countries at the Tokyo meet, including Brazil, Kenya, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Lesotho and Senegal. Participants from many developing countries also acknowledged the need to adhere to the deadlines for making headway in the negotiations. Consequently, the Ministers resolved to make a fresh effort to achieve progress in these areas, which are of vital interest to the developing countries.
An important issue discussed in Tokyo was the first draft of the modalities on the negotiations in agriculture. As anticipated, there were sharp differences between the EC and the US and the Cairns group on this draft. Mr. Ajit Singh, the Indian Minister for Agriculture strongly emphasized the highest priority that India would give to the protection of her farmers and their well being. As far as India is concerned, there are some positive features in the draft in the form of provisions for Special and Differential Treatment for developing countries in the area of agriculture. However, India has reservations on the proposed reduction in the bound rate of tariffs and therefore, while noting some of the positive aspects, the Agriculture Minister pointed out the lack of flexibility that India had on the market access in agriculture.
In respect of market access in non-agricultural products, Mr. Jaitley highlighted India's proactive agenda in consonance with our domestic policy of autonomous liberalisation. He strongly advocated increased market access for products of export interest to India such as textiles, leather and other goods. He also emphatically flagged the need to protect certain domestic sectors and to ensure that our revenue needs are not compromised because of liberalisation. In the services sector, India has expressed its strong interest. Most Ministers at the Tokyo meet appreciated India's aggressive approach in the services negotiations and took note of the fact that India has made more than 60 requests of other countries for market access in services, which makes India by far the most active amongst the developing countries. Mr. Jaitley expressed India's strong interest in the movement of natural persons as service providers and asked for greater liberalisation in this mode of delivery of services.
On Singapore issues, namely investment, competition policy, government procurement and trade facilitation, Mr. Jaitley pointed out that these issues did not fall within the purview of the WTO, which should focus on trade related issues, while the EC, Japan and some other countries pressed for the inclusion of these issues in the WTO agenda. India also called for stronger disciplines in anti-dumping and anti-subsidy in order to ensure that market access obtained through reduction in tariffs and removal of non-tariff barriers is not negated through protectionist trade defence measures.Looking to the future, India has suggested a six-point road map to Cancun. Speaking on the Session on the Road to Cancun at the Tokyo meet, Mr. Jaitley has proposed that the first priority should be to restore trust and confidence in the WTO system and said that this would be possible through early resolution of the pending development related issues - TRIPs and Public Health, progress in the areas of Special and Differential Treatment and Implementation issues. "This can only take place if there is active engagement from the developed countries during the negotiations", he said. Secondly, the Director General of the WTO in his capacity as Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) could consider a possible road map for the months ahead with clear deadlines. Thirdly, as a confidence building measure, the issue of internal transparency in the negotiations at the WTO should be resolved. Fourth, there should be a clear focus on achieving future deadlines as laid down in the Doha Ministerial Declaration. In this context, India has pointed out that since agriculture is a priority sector for all countries, satisfactory resolution with respect to removal of distortions in global agricultural trade can take place only if both domestic support and export subsidies are substantially reduced or eliminated in the developed countries. "Market Access in the developing countries needs to be carefully calibrated so that social tensions in the rural areas do not occur. Adequate bound rates and special safeguards must be available to prevent surge of imports", Mr. Jaitley stressed. Fifthly, in order to avoid an overload of agenda at Cancun, completion of as much work as possible and as much consensus as possible in Geneva would be necessary so that only the most important issues could go to the Ministers for resolution at Cancun. And, finally, that there could be small meetings of Ministers and senior officials to focus on specific pending issues at Geneva rather than taking up overall reviews of work. Mr. Jaitley warned against slippages in the deadlines prescribed at Doha and hoped that substantive progress would be achieved in the content of the negotiations.