India wants agriculture in centre stage of WTO talks

India wants agriculture in centre stage of WTO talks

New Delhi: India will not open its cards on offering market for industrial goods in the WTO talks unless the rich nations come upfront with their offers on cutting the agricultural subsidies, a senior official has said.

In its latest effort to break the deadlock between developed and developing countries on the Doha Round of trade negotiations, the World Trade Organisation has come out with separate drafts on agriculture and the Non-Agriculture Market Access (NAMA).

While India and other developing countries like Brazil are willing to accept the draft on agriculture as a good basis for negotiations, the text on NAMA (industrial goods) has totally been rejected by them.

“NAMA text as been very controversial as it is trying to sequence talks on industrial goods ahead of negotiations on agricultural goods," joint director in the Commerce Ministry Bipin Menon said at a CII meeting.

Menon, who has been closely associated with the WTO talks, said the US and Europe want the developing countries to open their cards on industrial goods while they are keeping strategy on agriculture close to their chest.

The NAMA talks are starting from September 24 in which Indian officials will participate.

“We would like agriculture to be at the centre stage and intertwined with NAMA and services," he said.

According to experts, the US is not likely to lower subsidies and direct income support it was providing to its farmers.

“The US is giving direct income support to its farmers and there is no indication in the farm bill for lowering the subsidy," said Biswajit Dhar, Professor and Head of Centre for WTO Issues, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade.

Experts said the US Farm Bill 2007 is casting a shadow over WTO negotiations since it does not promises reforms in American agricultural policies required for a breakthrough in the Doha Round.

The prospects of an early breakthrough in the WTO negotiations were bleak as with the US elections approaching, “its unlikely that Bush administration will go an extra mile to take decision which might affect its farm sector," Dhar said.