US study supports India's stand in Doha negotiations

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New Delhi, Feb 17 (UNI) India's seeking flexibility on agriculture in Doha round of negotiations at the World Trade Organisation with the objective of protecting livelihood of millions of farmers has found support in a study carried out by a US think tank.

In the Doha negotiations, it will be most advantageous for developing countries like India to have the flexibility to respond to agriculture price shocks based on their own specific conditions at the time of the shock, rather than having rigid disciplines imposed in advance, the study by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said.

An agreement in the Doha round negotiations at WTO will require India and other countries to bind their agricultural tariffs at lower levels. But once bound by tariff, changes in global agriculture prices will have strongest effects on India because Indian tariffs would be lowered towards all trading partners, including the lowest cost producer of each product.

To guard against impact of negative price shocks, India and a coalition of developing countries known as the Group of Thirty-Three (G-33) want that they be allowed to designate a certain number of agriculture products as "special proudcts" that could be shielded from tariff reductions or subjected to only smaller tariff cuts to protect livelihood security, food security, or rural development.

India and other developing countries also want a "special safeguard mechanism" to enable them temporarily raise tariffs to counter a sharp change in the price or volume of imports that could threaten local livelihood.

If the Indian government succeeds in getting special and differential treatment of products such as rice and wheat, major staple diet of her people and backbone of food security system, designated as "special products", it will become "important instruments" to avoid negative effects on the incomes of the poor as and when global prices decrease.

"In Doha negotiations, it will be most advantageous for developing countries like India to have the flexibility to respond to price shocks based on their own specific conditions at the time of shock, rather than having disciplines imposed in advance," the study "India's Trade Policy Choices: Managing Diverse Challanges" released recently said.

While expressing satisfaction that the original G-20 proposal of a minimum 54 per cent cut in agriculture tariffs for developed countries and 36 per cent for developing countries is back on the negotiation table at WTO, India's Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said there is, however, a need for detailed deliberations on special products and special safeguard mechanism for developing countries.

This, he added, is imperative to insulate sensitive farm products from formula tariff cuts so as to protect farmers against cheaper import surges.

But United States has taken a tough stance on negotiations on special and differential treatment of farm products because it will hurt their export of agri products which are projected to be 11 billion dollars in 2008.

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