JAITLEY SEEKS CONSENSUS ON WTO NEGOTIATING STRATEGY
CONSULTATIONS WITH ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE HELD
Date : 09 Aug 2003
Location : New Delhi
Continuing the process of consultations with various stakeholders, on negotiating strategies in the run-up to the 5th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) scheduled to be held at Cancun in Mexico in September, Shri Arun Jaitley, Minister of Commerce & Industry and Law & Justice, chaired a meeting of the Advisory Committee on International Trade here today and sought inputs from the members so as to forge a consensus on the key issues of interest to India in the WTO negotiations.
Members who participated were: S/Shri Muchkund Dubey, former Foreign Secretary; Dr. Amit Mitra, Secretary General, FICCI; Tarun Das, Director General, CII; P.P. Prabhu, former Commerce Secretary; Dr. V. A. Pai Panandiker; Prabir Sengupta, DG, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT); Pradip S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS; and Dr. Suman Sahai, Convenor, Gene Campaign.
Giving a broad overview of the current state of play, Shri Jaitley referred to the series of mini-ministerials held in the recent past -- Sydney (November 2002), Tokyo (February 2003), Sharm el-Sheikh (June) and Montreal (July), besides a meeting with the OECD which he attended in Paris and gave a brief outline of the directions in which the negotiations were moving, in areas such as agriculture and non-agricultural market access, services, TRIPs & Public Health and the Singapore issues. He said that on agriculture, India was effectively articulating the need for reduction in trade distorting subsidies and for special windows by way of special products and special safeguard mechanism in order to protect the interests of the 650 million people dependent on agriculture in India. In non-agricultural market access, he said, the sensitivities of the Indian industry should be fully taken care of. He said there must be forward movement on the issues of TRIPs & Public Health and underlined the proactive stance being taken in services through the request and offer process. Referring to India’s opposition to the proposed multilateralisation of investment, he said that India had successfully resisted attempts to push forward modalities for negotiations in this area without an explicit consensus.
Members of the Committee expressed the view that India had something to gain in the area of non-agricultural market access and could, therefore, take a proactive position in the area of industrial tariffs. FICCI suggested a cautious approach on tariff elimination in respect of specific industrial sectors; moratorium on anti-dumping in textiles for the post-MFA phase and progress on the framework agreement proposed by India and others for integrating the fundamental role of special & differential (S&D) in the WTO system in order to make S&D treatment mandatory and legally binding. CII highlighted the need for closer inter-ministerial as well as political consultations and suitable international engagement to maximise the country’s gains from the negotiations. Shri Pai Panandiker, Shri Prabhu, Shri Sengupta and others stressed the need for continued efforts at coalition building and said that India should take a proactive position in sectors where it was doing well. Some members also felt that there could be alternative approaches on contentious issues. Dr. Suman Sahai highlighted that the focus should be not only on TRIPs & Public Health, but equally, if not more, on TRIPs and Agriculture and Food which were areas of vital concern to India and developing countries. She also pointed out the inconsistency in seeking membership of UPOV with initiatives taken for plant variety protection and said that the issue of UPOV membership needed a relook.
Shri Muchkund Dubey suggested a strategy for Cancun which would involve consolidating India’s gains in areas like non-agricultural market access and TRIPS & Public Health; doing the best possible in areas where the country’s position was defensive; not offering anything under Mode 3 (commercial presence) without significant gains under Mode 4 (movement of natural persons); and to pursue the coalition building and consensus building process in the run-up to Cancun. On investment, members expressed opposition to a multilateral agreement without an explicit consensus.