Call to address development challenge of Doha Round

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G. Srinivasan

New Delhi, June 28

India today made a strong pitch for addressing the development challenge of Doha Round "frontally and substantially" if the current global multilateral trade negotiations are to succeed.

In a letter addressed to trade ministers of all member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the eve of the mini-ministerial beginning on Thursday in Geneva, the Union Commerce & Industry Minister and India's principal trade negotiator, Mr Kamal Nath, cautioned that "there is a growing disquiet that the contours of the development dimension of this round are not yet apparent. What does development mean? Surely it cannot mean displacement of subsistence farmers and de-industrialisation of developing countries" he said on Wednesday while releasing the letter in London.

Non-negotiable issues

Mr Nath declared that "livelihood security and subsistence of the poor are not negotiable issues" even while the sensitivities of developed countries in matters of trade liberalisation involve commercial issues. He said that these two differing sets of concerns were not equal and could not be treated equally.

That is why, he said, in agriculture, "we have been pressing for very substantial reductions in trade-distorting subsidies that the developed countries have been providing to their agricultural sectors. It is also for the same reason that we have been insisting that overall tariff reduction commitments by developed countries should at most be two-thirds of those of developed countries. Of critical importance is an adequate number of special products and an effective special safeguard mechanism instrument that can provide a modicum of protection to farmers in developing countries".

Industrial tariffs

On the issue of industrial tariffs also, Mr Nath emphasised that developing countries should not be prevented from developing their infant industrial sectors. "An over-ambitious programme of tariff liberalisation can permanently foreclose the possibility of industrial development in many developing countries - in some cases, actually leading to de-industrialisation," he said.In services, he said movement of goods was also linked to movement of people and indicated, "If even non-immigration commitments are sought to be denied on the plea of sensitivities, it will not be possible to arrive at a balanced outcome in these negotiations."

Non-tariff barriers

He said the issue of non-tariff barriers, abuse of anti-dumping provisions must be dealt with effectively and prevention of bio-piracy and preserving traditional knowledge must be ensured.A balanced outcome across these different fronts would call for crystallising the development content of the Doha Round to meet the aspirations of WTO's diverse membership and members must demonstrate the political will to do this, he added.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 29, 2006)
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