COMMERCE SECRETARY UNDERLINES NEED FOR DEVELOPING ANALYTICAL EXPERTISE IN EXTERNAL TRADE MATTERS
REGIONAL MEETING ON RESEARCH AND TRAINING NEEDS IN INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN ASIA-PACIFIC COUNTRIES INAUGURATED
Date : 13 Nov 2000
Location : New Delhi
Shri Prabir Sengupta, Secretary, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has said that there was an imperative need for building up the required level of analytical expertise in the area of external trade relations, as the developing countries had an inadequate understanding of the GATT/WTO system functions and they were often unable to work out the implications of the commitments made by them which had already resulted in a large gap between initial expectations and actual results in the post-Uruguay Round period. While inaugurating the Regional Meeting on Research and Training Needs in International Trade in Asia-Pacific Countries, here today, Shri Sengupta emphasised that the WTO mechanism could not be looked into in isolation from the overall development strategies that the developing and the least developed countries had embarked upon and in this context, it was necessary that domestic capability in terms of formulating appropriate trade policies and export promotion strategies gets developed in these countries. "What is necessary is an appropriate strategy that promotes both trade and development", he said. The 3-day (November 13-15) meeting is being organised by the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) in collaboration with UNCTAD, UNDP and ESCAP. Shri K. Dharmarajan, DG/IIFT; Prof. B. Bhattacharyya, Dean/IIFT; and Shri Ravi Sawhney, Director, International Trade and Industry Division, UN-ESCAP were also present on the occasion.
Further underlining the importance of having a well oiled machinery for analysis, Shri Sengupta referred to the mandated negotiations that had already begun in the WTO in the agriculture and services sectors and emphasised that the developing countries must get themselves duly prepared, both with respect to the formulation of their country positions as well as in carrying out an in-depth analysis of what the proposals of the major trading nations imply for their economies.
Stating that many lessons could be drawn from the recent economic experiences such as the crisis in East Asia, Shri Sengupta said that a proper analysis for such experiences would surely facilitate development of appropriate policy responses with a view to avoiding recurrence of similar situations. Quoting from the Trade & Development Report 2000, the Secretary said that while policy makers had rightly rejected a retreat into protectionism, it would be just as wrong to allow global market forces to dictate future growth and development. The Report, he said, also reiterates that thrust in market forces and monitory policy alone would not carry the day in an increasingly inter-dependent global financial and trading system, and that increased international cooperation and dialogue would be needed if the full potential of new technologies to bridge the growing gap between the rich and the poor was to be realised.
Shri Sengupta reiterated India’s stand on the need for the operationalisation of the special & differential treatment provisions of the WTO agreements without which, he said, inequities in the international systems could not be addressed. The underlying principle of the Uruguay Round agreement was not merely free trade for its own sake but was also to create a fair and equitable multilateral trading system leading to development and increasing incomes, he said. "It should be the goal of the international community that we set up systems that will enable the under-privileged of the world to significantly raise their standards of living within the shortest possible time", he added. He also referred to the Agreement on Textiles & Clothing where he said, the expected market access benefits for developing countries and least developed countries had not materialised. Similarly, he said, anti-dumping and safeguard activities in some developed countries had aimed at blunting of comparative advantages of developing countries in certain sectors.
Speaking on the occasion, Shri Dharmarajan informed the gathering that IIFT had recently entered into a MOU with UNCTAD under which the Institute would serve as the Regional Training Centre for Asia on multilateral investment treaties. The Institute had also entered into a MOU with the Centre for International Development, Harvard University for conducting joint studies for export development strategy for India, he said. In the context of this programme, he said, it may be noted that the institute had earlier set up a Centre for WTO Studies with financial contribution from the government. In his address, Shri Bhattacharyya said that the regional meeting had two distinct components with the first two days deliberations being devoted to an evaluation of the current status of the global trade and investment flows, developing a framework for mainstreaming the developing countries; and the third day of the programme being devoted to the specific problems being faced by the least developed countries in the Region with respect to formulating trade policies and strategies in the context of institutional capacity building in trade-related training institutions.