INDIA AGAINST OVERLOADING OF WTO AGENDA
Date : 29 Mar 2001
Location : New Delhi
A meeting of senior trade officials from twenty WTO Member countries was held in Geneva on 27 March, 2001. The meeting was organised jointly by Japan and the European Communities. India was represented in the meeting by its Ambassador to the WTO, Shri S. Narayanan and Special Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Shri Nripendra Misra. India made it clear that its position was unchanged and that it remained unconvinced of the need for the launch of a new round of negotiations in the WTO.
India expressed profound disappointment in the meeting on the lack of progress in addressing and resolving implementational issues and concerns raised by a large number of developing counties including India. It pointed out that these proposals were tabled well before the Seattle Ministerial Conference and stressed the need to resolve these issues by the time of the Doha Ministerial Conference, as already decided by the General Council. It stressed that the proposals by developing countries with regard to the implementation issues and concerns are modest and do not involve rewriting of every agreement. In response to the argument of some that all the proposals are matters for renegotiation, India responded that there cannot be any pre-judging of the nature and scope of the proposals even before a meaningful discussion on most of the proposals in the General Council. It hoped that the major trading partners will make a good faith effort to deal with the concerns of developing countries without resorting to narrow technicalities.
On the issue of investment, India pointed out that from the developing countries' perspective, a multilateral investment agreement in the WTO will take away many strategic development policy options currently available to developing countries. It was reiterated that such an agreement in the WTO cannot by itself change the current pattern of investment flows in as much as the flow of foreign direct investment is determined by a number of factors which have no bearing on a WTO Member being a signatory to an investment agreement or otherwise. The fact that almost all the developing countries have very open investment regimes and, that therefore, a multilateral agreement in the WTO is unlikely to add value was also highlighted.
With regard to competition policy, it was pointed out that many developing countries, including India, are in the process of enacting national competition laws and that it will not be fair to expect them to engage themselves in negotiations for developing multilateral disciplines in the area of competition even before they have had adequate experience in implementing national competition law.
With regard to the EC's proposal on environment which envisages addressing the relationship between Multilateral Environment Agreement and WTO rules, eco-labelling and precautionary principle, India said that existing WTO rules are adequate to meet the legitimate environmental concerns of the EC and other WTO Members. Furthermore, it was pointed out that there was no fundamental contradiction or conflict between the existing WTO rules and multilateral environment agreements. On the other hand, there were justified fears of protectionism if existing WTO rules were weakened to accommodate alleged environment concerns. It maintained its stand that the Committee on Trade and Environment was the appropriate forum for discussion of issues based on a balanced agenda.
India looks forward to working with other WTO Members for a successful Ministerial Conference in Doha. India has also drawn the attention of the EC and Japan to the fact that their press release on the meeting does not faithfully reflect the position taken by India in the meeting.