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Friday, May 31, 2002

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FICCI seeks more time on industrial tariff norms

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THE Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has expressed concern over fixing a deadline to establish modalities for industrial tariff negotiations in the ongoing seminar on market access organised by the World Trade Organisation (from May 29 to 31) in Geneva.

The chamber has sought more time to consider the implications of using different types of modalities for industrial tariff negotiations. Modalities for any negotiations basically set the framework for how negotiations will proceed and include things such as which products will be targeted for tariff reductions, and formula for such reductions, it said.

Since the modalities provide for various numerical targets, formula and tariff negotiation approaches, they have a significant impact on the outcome of negotiations. Many industrialised country members have proposed March 2003 deadline, which is not acceptable to most of the developing countries. The chamber said that it would be difficult for many developing countries to adhere to such a tight deadline in the wake of various negotiations going on in WTO.

Expressing some of its concerns on the market access negotiations for industrial goods, the chamber said that this round of industrial tariff negotiations would have far reaching and deeper implications for developing countries as compared to previous rounds, so there is a need to handle the negotiations for the reduction of industrial tariffs with utmost care.

The chamber said that for the current negotiations on industrial tariffs, the request-offer approach would be important and could be one of the best approaches to address the issue of tariff peaks on the products of our export interest.

FICCI observed that the most pertinent issue for India in the industrial tariff negotiations would be related to unbound industrial tariff lines. There may be pressure on India to bind its unbound tariff lines. The chamber said that India has to withstand such pressure since for domestic reasons it may be necessary to exclude certain tariff lines from binding commitments.

Another issue of great concern would be related to tariff escalations, FICCI said. The chamber said that despite eight years of long negotiations in the previous round, tariff peaks and tariff escalation continue to impinge exports of developing countries. The Doha Declaration on market access too states that negotiations will include reduction or elimination of tariff peaks, tariff escalation and non-tariff barriers, in particular on products of export interest to developing countries.

The chamber also felt that developing countries would be the main target in these negotiations and they are relatively more vulnerable in this area of negotiations.

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