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India pitches for focus on farm growth concerns at Cancun

Our Bureau

Stating that India need safeguards against surge in imports of farm goods, Mr Jaitley said reform of the European Union's common agricultural policy was inadequate as it was obviously constrained by the domestic politics of the constituent States.

New Delhi , Aug. 18

INDIA today made a strong pitch for bringing development concerns to the centrestage of the negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) both on the road to Cancun as well as at Cancun, particularly in agriculture if a positive result is to be achieved at the fifth ministerial being held in Mexico next month.

The Union Commerce and Industry Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, said this here on Monday while inaugurating a national symposium on `Trade and globalisation: The agenda towards Cancun 2003' organised by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with Unctad and UNDP. He said agricultural negotiations had ``serious economic, political and social ramifications which would weigh the most in our minds.''

``The high level of subsidisation in developed countries adversely affected the large number of people dependent on agriculture in India There must be gradual reduction and eventual elimination of such subsidies as our farmers cannot compete with the heavily subsidised products of the developed world,'' he said.

Stating that developing countries as India need safeguards against surge in imports of farm goods, Mr Jaitley said reform of the European Union's common agricultural policy was inadequate as it was obviously constrained by the domestic politics of the constituent states. He further contended that it was easier for the developed countries to market reforms since they had already enjoyed the fruits of development. Hence, he pleaded for an objective public discourse on the implications of trade liberalisation and globalisation.

The Minister said, ``we would like to see in Cancun that TRIPs and public health issue is resolved.'' In non-agricultural market access (NAMA), i.e., industrial tariff negotiations, sectors, which were large employment generators such as small-scale industries, would need continued protection in view of the sensitivities involved. He also emphasised the need to iron out asymmetries in the pace of post-Doha negotiations whereby negotiations in areas of interest to developed countries progressed at a faster clip while those of interest to developing countries were slow. ``Areas of critical interest to developing countries like India, namely, resolution of the TRIPs and public health impasse, adequacy of implementation related package, time-bound negotiations of the framework for special and differential treatment for developing countries, as agreed at Doha, have to be brought back on the radar screen.''

On investment, Mr Jaitley made it clear that the very appropriateness in bringing it into the multilateral trading regime was being questioned and views were expressed that Cancun might not be the occasion for explicit consensus on such a sensitive and complex issue.

The Union Commerce Secretary, Mr Dipak Chatterjee, said the symposium was very timely and would contribute to clarifying ideas about stakes involved in the intensive discussions currently going on in Geneva. Speaking on behalf of UNCTAD, its Director, Ms Lakshmi Puri, said while Cancun would be a process that was important for developing countries including India to prepare for the accelerated negotiating process, which was now going on in Geneva in the run-up to Cancun.

She cited three factors for the importance of Cancun to India. With more than 50 per cent of world trade being covered by extant or emerging regional trade arrangements and India being mostly out of such RTAs, New Delhi had considerable stake in the multilateral trading system. Second, in order to achieve one per cent of global trade and the 2020 vision of a developed country, the platform of a non-discriminatory, rule-based multilateral trading system was required to focus on trade, investment and technology transfer. Third, India's standing as well as stakes were high as many saw this country not only as a large and growing economy but also as a very large market. She also highlighted the urgent need to address the issue of market entry barriers in both agriculture and non-agriculture sectors.

Mr Maurice Dewulf of UNDP said the multilateral trading system was today at the crossroads and Cancun would show whether the imbalances of the system would be redressed or not. He suggested drawing up of "vulnerability maps" to address the concerns of developing countries and proposed that the UN millennium goal agenda should be carried forward to Cancun.

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