New Delhi: India has responded strongly to the revised draft proposals on agricultural as well as non-agricultural market access, or NAMA, released by World Trade Organization, or WTO, saying that they go against the Doha mandate and are aimed at dividing developing countries. The global body released its draft proposals—which detail the level and extent of duty cuts and subsidies—on 19 May.
“The revised text on NAMA is not at all acceptable as it goes against the development mandate of the Doha round. It is full of carve-outs for various countries and is intended to divide the countries in the developing world. The agriculture text is a step forward from earlier texts but some of the proposals are not at all acceptable to India,” said G.K. Pillai, secretary, ministry of commerce and industry.
The Doha round of trade negotiations were started in 2001 in order to slash tariff barriers and promote trade globally. But even after seven years, there is no consensus.
The latest set of revisions follow the draft proposals brought out in February 2008.
Elaborating on India’s concerns on the NAMA text, Pillai said, “The fact that the number of issues in the ‘square brackets’ (or within known bounds, yet still undecided) have gone up from 15 (in the February texts) to 97 in the present case shows the confused state of affairs. Moreover, the chairperson has presented a ‘sliding rule’ whereby there will be trade-off between the number of commodities in which a country can ask for exemptions and the extent to which the tariffs will be cut at an average for that country. This is against the accepted mandate. Moreover, it is also divisive,” said Pillai.
On agriculture negotiations, Pillai singled out proposals on special safeguard mechanism (SSM) as unacceptable to India. SSM is intended to allow developing countries to protect domestic producers when imports cross a certain limit in terms of volume (called “volume trigger”) or if imports come at a price below a certain level (called “price trigger”).
Pillai said the total number of products for which SSM would be available—set in the revised text between a range of 3 and 8—is “too few for a country of India’s size”. Also, he said the threshold level for price and volume triggers are “too high” to be acceptable.
“All in all, I can say that hard negotiations lie ahead of us. If India’s core concerns are not met, then there will not be any deal,” he added.
The European Union (EU), which is pushing for an early resolution of the Doha round, has welcomed the fact that the revised drafts could be presented on time. But EU didn’t elaborate while emphasising that “there will be no deal unless it is a good deal”.
Industry bodies Ficci and the CII have expressed disappointment at the new drafts that they say do not adequately represent the concerns of other developing countries.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for US trade representative Susan Schwab said: “We are prepared to make the tough political choices necessary to conclude an agreement, as others will need to do as well. Specifically, we will be looking to see how the world’s largest and fastest growing economies are going to make market-opening contributions commensurate with their increasing participation and role in the world economy.”