India rebuffs rich nations’ demand for further market opening

India rebuffs rich nations’ demand for further market opening

New Delhi: Rebuffing the demand by rich nations to take increased responsibility in the Doha trade talks, India today said it cannot open its markets beyond its obligation without reciprocal gains.

“No market access above the level of what is there (as incumbent on a developing country) can be given for free. If countries agree to give, they have to be paid for it. This is the language of WTO," India’s chief negotiator at the World Trade Organisation D K Mittal said at a Ficci seminar here.

Doha round of talks, launched in 2001 under the aegis of WTO, have missed several deadlines in the past due to differences between developed and developing countries over issues like agricultural subsidies and market access.

Mittal, an additional secretary in the commerce ministry, said the Indian economy has gained the status of an advance developing nation more because of its domestic consumption as its exports are only 18% of its GDP.

Advance countries, particularly the US, have been arguing that emerging economies like India, China and Brazil should be treated as advance developing countries and be asked to take bigger responsibilities in terms of market opening for reaching a global trade deal.

“I think the arguments that advance developing countries (like India) to pay more need to be looked at very carefully should have some plausible basis," he said in the presence of WTO deputy director general Harsha Vardhana Singh, who is an Indian.

Mittal said while India has made progress in its economic development, it still has 300 million people who do not get two square meal a day.

“I am asked to pay more at the cost of this population which cannot have proper food twice a day," he said.

Mittal said India has already eliminated duties altogether on a large number of agricultural products to keep inflation in check, giving huge markets to the developed countries.

“We have to make a balance as India between the protection of the right of farmers and the protection of the rights of the consumers," he said.

In his speech, the WTO deputy director general said, “We need a balance between the concerns, namely of the exporting countries and importing countries. One side does not want the instrument (of safeguard mechanism) to be used as disguise form of protection, and the other wants to have a simple mechanism to address the concern of the vulnerable production in its agriculture," Vardhana said.

He said concluding the Doha talks would have substantial benefits for the world trade and failure of this count would be “gradually weakening the multilateral trading system".