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`India pushed food security on top of WTO agenda'

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The Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, Mr Kamal Nath, addressing the media on the WTO Framework Agreement in the Capital on Tuesday along with the Commerce Secretary, Mr Dipak Chatterjee. — PIB photo

New Delhi , Aug 3

THE Union Commerce and Industry Minister, Mr Kamal Nath, today said that the recent framework agreement hammered out by WTO members in Geneva for the first time "enshrines" India's abiding concern on subsistence farmers, rural development needs and food security into the WTO future negotiations on agriculture.

Talking to newspersons here at his office, Mr Kamal Nath said the framework on agriculture fully meets India's key demands designed to preserving the country's domestic policy space by providing for special products, special safeguard mechanism and a special and differential treatment in respect of market access in agriculture.

While special products refers to those of special sensitivity which would be exempt from tariff reduction cuts, special safeguard mechanism is one which would enable the country to take safeguard measures against any surge in agricultural imports.

He said the developing countries also thwarted the move to reduce even the minimal level of domestic support being given to them and as a result the issue has been excluded from the agenda for further negotiations in the Doha Round.

Mr Kamal Nath said that as the advanced countries subsidise their farm sector to the tune of $300 billion a year, which cause price distortion besides creating an artificial prices to the detriment of developing country's farm products, the framework agreement has proposed substantial reduction in trade-distorting domestic support.

India and other developing countries have wrested "a down payment" of 20 per cent of this reduction by the rich countries' domestic farm support in the first year of the implementation period, he said.

This is a bigger cut than the reductions made following the Uruguay Round over six years, he added.

Mr Kamal Nath claimed that the creation of a blue box of domestic support, which was sought by the US to make over some of its trade-distorting support to this box, was strongly resisted by New Delhi and other developing countries.

As a result, this was obviated in the revised draft, which stipulates that additional criteria would have to be negotiated before it is made operational.

He said in the area of non-agricultural market access (NAMA), developing countries would have "flexibilities" in tariff cuts and longer transition periods.

He said that in developing countries like India the gap between bound duty and applied duty was big, the tariff reductions would be on bound duty and not on applied duty.

Mr Kamal Nath said negotiations on NAMA would aim to reduce or appropriate eliminate tariffs, including reduction or elimination of tariff peaks, high tariffs and tariff escalation, as well as non-tariff barriers, particularly on products of export interest to developing countries.

He said the negotiations on trade facilitation, one of the agreed frameworks, would aim at expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods and at provisions for effective cooperation between Customs or other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and Customs compliance issues.

The Commerce Secretary, Mr Dipak Chatterjee, clarified that in 23 major ports accounting for 80 per cent of the country's foreign trade takes place through electronic data interchange (EDI), compliance on this count would not be a problem.

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