Monday, Feb 17, 2003
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By P. S. Suryanarayana
Unveiling India's proposals during the conference, the Commerce and Industry Minister, Arun Jaitley, said the restoration of universal trust and confidence in the WTO system should be treated as the first priority.
The ``early resolution of the pending development-related issues TRIPS and public health (as also) progress in the areas of Special and Differential Treatment and Implementation Issues''
could help restore trust in the WTO system. An ``active engagement from the developed countries'' was called for in this context. Clear deadlines should be set by the WTO Director-General, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee, for the resolution of various development-driven issues. Closely related to the twin elements of trust and deadlines would be the need to resolve the question of internal transparency of the parleys under the WTO auspices.
The inter-related fourth aspect of India's road map was the emphasis on the principle of deadlines, as already set out in the Doha ministerial declaration, even if these be updated now.
Drawing attention to the importance of farm trade negotiations in this context, Mr. Jaitley said that the removal of distortions could take place ``only if both domestic support and export subsidies are substantially reduced or eliminated in the developed countries''.
On a parallel track, ``market access in the developing countries needs to be carefully calibrated so that social tensions in the rural areas do not occur''. He also underlined that ``adequate bound rates and special safeguards must be available to prevent surge of imports''.
Outlining the last two inter-linked points of the Indian plan, Mr. Jaitley called for a fast-paced consensus-building, wherever feasible, ahead of the Cancun meeting, so that only the most important issues would be left to be decided there. He also warned against slippages as regards the deadlines set at Doha.
As for the non-farm sector, India called for an ``increased (global) market access for products of export interest to India such as textiles, leather and other goods''. Indicating India's strong interest in the services sector, the Minister turned the spotlight on ``the movement of natural persons as service-providers'' and asked for a ``greater (global) liberalisation in (respect of) this mode of delivery of services''.
On the so-called ``Singapore issues'', such as investment and competition policy, he said that these matters could not be treated as the direct concerns of the WTO which should stay focussed on trade-specific problems.
In a related context, India called for ``stronger discipline in anti-dumping and anti-subsidy'' so that there would be no negation of market access that the developing countries might obtain through reductions in tariffs and the removal of non-tariff barriers.
While the deep differences over farm trade talks precluded any specific accords between the rich countries and the developing bloc at this juncture, the Tokyo meeting was also rocked by disagreements on how the poor could access patented medicines.
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