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Our concerns being addressed at WTO talks: Kamal Nath

Our Bureau

New Delhi , Aug. 16

INDIA today said that as negotiations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade liberalisation talks are proceeding on the recent Framework Agreement; "our core concerns continue to be adequately addressed".

Making an identical statement in both Houses of Parliament on the Agreement adopted by the WTO on August 1, in Geneva, the Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, Mr Kamal Nath, said that "our approach to the negotiations will be dictated by our national interests, especially our concerns for the millions of farmers who are dependent for their livelihood on agriculture, as also our objective of stimulating economic activity through export of our goods and services."

The Minister noted that the Framework Agreement was the major stage for the conclusion of the Doha Work Programme as it lays down the principles and criteria.

He said the next step would be finalisation of modalities, including formulae for reduction in tariffs and domestic support, setting the actual date for elimination of export subsidies for agricultural products and giving shape and meaning to the various special provisions "we have managed to incorporate in the Agreement."

Referring to New Delhi's efforts towards working closely with various like-minded groups in the trade talks, Mr Kamal Nath said, "we are committed to continuing to work in close cooperation with other WTO members and groupings on issues of interest to us in the next stage of negotiations".

Claiming that India was able to achieve all its major objectives in this Framework Agreement, the Minister said that in the key area of agriculture it has been agreed that all forms of export subsidies would be eliminated by an end date, which was our major demand.

On trade-distorting domestic support, it has been possible to ensure that an immediate commitment in the form of 20 per cent reduction in overall trade-distorting support would be made in the very first year itself.

The blue box providing for permissible subsidies, which remained hitherto uncapped, would be capped at 5 per cent from the first year of the implementation period itself. A modified blue box could be created only after agreement among members on the criteria, which would be subject to negotiations.

On market access, the agreement envisages that higher rates of tariff would face higher levels of cuts. Since the reduction required is from bound rates, which in the case of India are usually much higher than the applied rates, countries like India have an adequate cushion of comfort.

On industrial products, covered under non-agricultural market access negotiations, he said, India's concerns were mainly focused on the twin issues of protection to the sensitive items and to the nature of the sectoral approach - whether voluntary or mandatory.

Thus the Agreement, while providing for less than full reciprocity in tariff reduction commitments, also envisages additional flexibility in the treatment of some of the tariff lines, either through no cuts or through reduced cuts. In the services negotiations, Mr Kamal Nath said, India has an offensive agenda and it is possible to incorporate specifically an area of major interest viz., Mode 4 (i.e., movement of natural persons).

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