India succeeds at HK WTO meet

By agencies   |   Monday, 19 December 2005, 08:00 Hrs
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HONG KONG: India has got several of its concerns in agriculture, industrial goods and services addressed to in the ministerial text agreed to by the WTO, a newspaper said.

In addition to an end-date for elimination of export subsidies, the text includes a provision for developing countries to declare an appropriate number of special products on a self-selection basis, price and quantity trigger to enforce special safeguards against a sudden increase in imports and flexibilities to undertake lower tariff reductions in industrial goods, the Business Standard said.

“The unity of developing countries in form of a grand alliance has paid off in the trade negotiations here...the text is a balanced one and outlines the contours of the future negotiations which will take place early next year,” the paper quoted Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath as saying.

India has also managed to gain a significant concession for developing countries like itself whose level of domestic support in agriculture is far below the limit allowed by the WTO. According to the ministerial declaration, India will not have to undertake any cuts in its domestic support in this round.

“Developing countries with no AMS (aggregate measure of support) commitments will be exempt from reduction in de minimus and the overall cut in trade-distorting domestic support,” the text states.
“All the programs of the government aimed at benefiting farmers will not be subject to any WTO discipline,” Nath said. Officials said the ambiguity in the July 2004 framework had been addressed by replacing the words “almost all” with “will.”

The July framework had stated, “De minimus will be negotiated taking into account the principle of special and differential treatment. Developing countries that allocate almost all de minimus support for subsistence and resource-poor farmers will be exempt.”

In non-agricultural market access, Nath said India’s proposal along with Brazil and Argentina continues to be on the table. He said a clear instruction was contained in the text to focus on reduction of tariffs, especially tariff peaks and tariff escalation, on export products of developing countries, the paper said.

He said the text also ensured that flexibilities allowing exemption of a specific number of tariff lines from formula cuts under para 8 of the framework agreement for developing countries would be included in the final package.

On services, he said India had succeeded in ensuring that there was no compulsion on developing countries to open up its service sectors. In addition to this, commitments at existing levels in Mode 1 (cross border supply) and Mode 2 (consumption abroad) had been secured, he said.

Nath said it had also been agreed that discussions in geographical indications and biological diversity, which were of interest to India, would be intensified in order to be completed by June 30, 2006, the paper said.

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