INDIA TO FOCUS ON MARKET ACCESS, STAKE HOLDER-DRIVEN APPROACH ON WTO ISSUES
Date : 09 Jan 2002
Location : New Delhi
The government will continue to pursue a stakeholder-driven approach with focus on seeking enhanced market access for developing countries in future WTO negotiations, Shri Murasoli Maran, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, said here yesterday while addressing the 9th Meeting of the Advisory Committee on International Trade of the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. The Minister said the government would also identify specific WTO related trade issues for further studies to strengthen Indian negotiating stance in the context of the Doha Declaration and indicated that specific groups would be soon constituted. Coalition building efforts on issues of interest to the developing countries would also be intensified, the Minister stated. The Committee was briefed about the outcome of the 4th Ministerial Conference of the WTO which was held in Doha, Qatar, from 9th to 14th November, 2001 at the conclusion of which the Doha Ministerial Declaration was adopted on 14th November, 2001. In addition, a Declaration on TRIPs and Public Health and a decision on Implementation-related Issues and Concerns had marked the outcome of the Doha Conference. The focus has now shifted to the Work Programme in the WTO, as agreed at the Ministerial Conference and as per this Work Programme, negotiations are expected to be concluded by the year 2005. The Committee took note of the Doha developments and discussed the future approach. The high-level meeting of the Advisory Committee, the first after the Doha Ministerial Conference, was attended by Dr. (Smt) Suman Sahai, Convenor, Gene Campaign; Shri Tarun Das, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII); Dr. V.R. Panchmukhi, Director, Research & Information System for Non-aligned and Developing Countries (RIS); Shri P.P. Prabhu, former Commerce Secretary; Shri K. Dharmarajan, Director General, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT); Shri Muchkund Dubey, former Foreign Secretary; Dr. Amit Mitra, Secretary General, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI); and Shri Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS. Shri Prabir Sengupta, Commerce Secretary, Shri Nripendra Misra, Special Secretary and Shri S. Narayanan, formerly Ambassador to the WTO in the Permanent Mission of India/Geneva, also participated.
During the deliberations, members made a number of suggestions on possible approaches for future WTO negotiations. While complimenting the Minister and his team on successful participation in the Doha Conference, they stressed the need for continued efforts to sustain the unity amongst the developing countries and urged the government to identify the issues of common interest on which the solidarity seen at Doha could be further strengthened. Calling for greater research and analysis on WTO issues, members suggested that specialised groups be set up to go in-depth into different subjects, including the "Singapore issues". Members also noted that India’s leadership role at Doha had been appreciated and proposed that future negotiating strategies be consistent with the position taken at Doha. Greater attention to issues concerning Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) standards and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) so as to fully realise the gains in agriculture; a proactive position on market access issues aimed at reducing trade distorting measures; operationalisation of a special and differential (S&D) provisions of agreements; and ensuring that the TRIPs agenda reflected all aspects of concern to developing countries (and not just medicines) were amongst the other points flagged by the members. The participants expressed that India was not isolated at Doha and the unity had paid rich dividends, as reflected in the Ministerial Declaration as also in the separate Declarations on TRIPs & Public Health and the Decision on Implementation related issues and concerns. It was clarified that India is a member of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), which will be constituted this month as per the Doha Declaration. The TNC under the authority of the WTO General Council will supervise the overall conduct and progress of negotiations. The importance of promoting better awareness and understanding of WTO issues was also highlighted. Shri Maran assured that all the suggestions made at today’s meeting had been noted and said he would welcome continued inputs from all stakeholders in formulating WTO strategies.