New Delhi: The US has increased market access for Indian agriculture products but there has not been a reciprocal response from New Delhi, its envoy said on 6 March.
The US, the European Union (EU), India and Brazil are trying to construct a deal on agriculture, the main sticking point so far in the so-called Doha round of negotiations on a global trade pact.
“The US wants to increase agricultural trade with India. We made a commitment and are delivering on that pledge to increase US market access for Indian agricultural products,” David C. Mulford, US ambassador to India, told a business conference.
“But in the Doha round and in other specific product areas such as wheat, poultry, pistachios and wines and spirits, we have not found the same spirit of cooperation.”
The US is under pressure to offer steeper cuts in farm subsidies in the trade talks, while the EU is being pressed for deeper reductions in tariffs.
Developing nations like India are being asked to open their markets more to industrial goods and services.
Last year, the US and India agreed to double two-way trade to $50 billion in three years, and Mulford said the goal was “well on its way to being achieved”. Merchandise trade between the two nations stood at $36 billion in 2006, up 25% from a year earlier.
Mulford said processed foods represented only a negligible amount of India’s farm production and this potential, along with large-scale organised retail, offered large opportunities to private players.
“Considering that 97% of India’s retail sector is small scale and unorganized, there is no doubt that such developments will have a profound transformative effect on India’s economy -- and not necessarily at the expense of small retailers,” he said.
At present, India does not allow foreign firms in multi-brand retail.
Foreigners are however allowed to carry out wholesale cash-and-carry business and open single-brand multi-product retail outlets.
India’s Bharti Enterprises and Wal-Mart Stores Inc recently announced a joint venture for cash-and-carry trade while Britain’s Tesco Plc and French retailer Carrefour are reported to be keen to enter India.
India’s $300 billion retail industry is still dominated by small shop owners.