New Delhi, Feb.12 : Commerce and Industry MInister Kamal Nath today welcomed the Revised Draft Modalities texts on Agriculture and NAMA, which had been brought out in Geneva on February 8.
Commending the Chairs of the two negotiating groups for their efforts in seeking convergence and for putting together the complicated texts, Nath, however, said that a final view on the two texts would be possible only after holding consultations with other Ministries, domestic stakeholders, and India's partner countries in Geneva.
Sharing his preliminary assessment of the two texts, Nath said the text on agriculture distils the progress made in negotiations between September 2007 and January 2008. While convergence has been achieved in some areas, the Chair had also put out brand new text in some other unresolved areas and these would require detailed deliberations in areas involving Special Products (SPs), Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM), Special Safeguards, Tropical Products, Tariff Simplification etc.
He said there were also some other issues on which large divergences still exist, as for example OTDS, market access in Sensitive Products, Tariff Capping etc.
"Significant and effective reduction of trade distorting subsidies of the developed countries is an issue on which there can be no compromise because they impact adversely upon the livelihood of millions of our poor farmers," Nath said, adding that: "Indian agriculture cannot be expected to carry the burden and most definitely not in a Development Round".
Nath expressed satisfaction at the fact that the original G-20 proposal of a minimum 54 percent cut in agricultural tariffs for developed countries and a maximum tariff cut of 36 percent for developing countries was back on the table.
"India had always espoused the concept of two thirds proportionality between developed and developing countries in tariff reductions" he added.
Striking a note of caution, he stated that a lot of work still remains to be done on Special Products (SPs). India has already indicated that one of its "must-haves" on SPs was a significant number of tariff lines which did not have to take any tariff cuts.
Also, logic demands that the cuts for other SPs had to be more favourable than for Sensitive Products.
"The livelihood of Indian farmers and the food security of the nation is of paramount importance and must be protected at all costs," he said.
Nath noted that though the Revised NAMA text continues with the earlier proposals on Swiss coefficients, it reflects that there are other points of view held by many countries. He expressed surprise at the removal of the numbers on the para 8 flexibilities for developing countries, which have been on the table since the Framework of July 2004.
He hoped that the Chair of the Rules Negotiating Group would take a cue from the NAMA Chair and now come out with a Revised text, which truly reflects the views of the membership rather than representing just the views of one country, as in the case of the anti-dumping proposals.
Nath said that he was optimistic about the revised texts forming the basis for constructive engagement and negotiation in the coming weeks. There must be simultaneous progress on all fronts if we are to clinch a deal by end 2008, he concluded.