India cautions WTO against hastening pace of reforms

Thursday, 31 July 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: India has cautioned World Trade Organisation (WTO) members against a backlash from developing countries if the pace of economic reforms is perceived to be an imposition from outside.

Such a perception could set back the whole process of multilateral trade negotiations, said Minister for Communications, IT and Disinvestment Arun Shourie.

He was presenting India's views in Montreal, Canada, during three days of talks on WTO negotiations in the run-up to the ministerial meeting in the Mexican town of Cancun.

The minister emphasised that if the pace of economic reforms caused dislocation or was perceived as an imposition from outside, there could be a backlash, which would set back the whole process of multilateral trade negotiations.

"Stick to the (Doha) text and be cautious in moving forward," Shourie said in his message to the mini-ministerial meeting, according to a statement issued here by the commerce ministry Wednesday.

Attended by 24 member countries, Montreal is the third mini-ministerial meeting being held as a run-up to the Cancun conclave in September.

Shourie said agriculture was a key concern of India in the WTO negotiations, as it could affect not only the food security of the country but also the livelihood of vast numbers of people dependent on the farm sector.

Referring to the proposed negotiations on Special Products of interest to developing countries, Shourie said the selection of such products must be on the basis of self-declaration.

A multilaterally agreed criteria was not feasible, he said, pointing to the fact that in India there were about 35 crops with about five million people dependent on each. Besides, there were over 25 crops cultivated in areas of over one million hectares each.

"The Special Products would need to be combined with special safeguard measures, with suitable trigger mechanisms in terms of both import volume and price, in order to protect the interests of farmers," he said.

"There should also be real reduction in trade distorting agricultural subsidies without the camouflage of shifting of boxes and the key issue of non-tariff barriers (NTBs), which hindered exports from developing countries, should be adequately addressed," Shourie said.

On Singapore issues related to competition and investment, Shourie made it clear that there should be explicit consensus on the modalities, in accordance with the Doha mandate, before any negotiations as "nobody would like to take the first step without knowing where it will all lead".

He also emphasised that Singapore issues could not be a trade-off for negotiations on agriculture or non-agriculture market access and that they should be treated independently.

"Singapore issues should not in any manner be made the focus of the meet at Cancun," the minister stressed.

Source: IANS
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