India remains tough at WTO ministerial

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New Delhi, Jul 25 (UNI) India maintained its position on agriculture and industrial goods in trade negotiations at the WTO mini-ministerial meeting in Geneva with Commerce Minister Kamal Nath stating that if developed countries did not reciprocate flexibilities showed by developing countries, it would not be possible to conclude the Doha development round by the year-end.

On returning to Geneva after his government won the trust vote, he said; ''I am obviously not here to hand around freebies without getting something in return''.

Taking on developed countries, he said those who accused developing countries like India of not moving on market access, have not moved an inch since the Uruguay round in reducing high tariffs or tariff peaks on exports of developing countries.

In a statement made at the trade negotiation committee of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva,copy of which was released to the media here today, he said India is not ready to negotiate livelihood of its millions of poor farmers for commercial interests of some rich countries.

Besides demanding substantial reduction in trade-distorting farm subsidies by developed countries, India has also been seeking protection for certain farm produce, called special products(SPs), and special safeguard mechanism(SSM) to protect such products against imports surge and price dip.

He warned if SSM was subjected to shackles and restraints, there would no deal.

Earlier, the Minister had stated that India could walk out of negotiations if her concerns regarding the livelihood security of its millions of farmers were not protected at the global trade talks being attended by 30 key members of the WTO.

Mr Kamal Nath described the United States' offer to reduce subsidy on farm products to 15 billion dollars as a forward, but still inadequate movement towards negotiations. Current US subsidies are at around seven billion dollars because of high food prices in international market.

Group of developing countries, called G-33, though comprising of more than 40 members, had sought reduction to around 12 billion dollars.

Ruling out India agreeing to sectoral tariff elimination mandatory, Mr Kamal Nath said it is not part of this development round. He said since competitiveness was at the heart of the globalisation process, developed countries can not seek refuge under WTO to protect their uncompetitive industries.

On services, he said India could be flexible on industrial tariff reduction if the developed countries showed flexibilities in movement of professionals from developing countries and on out-sourcing. The issue of services could be taken at the signalling conference being held during the ministerial.

Mr Kamal Nath said; ''We are here to do serious business. We expect our trading partners to come to the conference with the same intent''.

India sought a revised text on rules, adding the ministerial must discuss this also because it was to be an integral part of the final outcome of negotiations on farm and industrial goods.

On the agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights(Trips) to guard against bio-piracy and expanding the list of specially-protected geographical indications(GIs), Mr Kamal Nath said recent developments on the Trips has vindicated India's position.

More than one hundred members have joined together to demand a ministerial decision for negotations under the single undertaking based on key parameters.

WTO has, however, agreed to hold informal consultations on the Trips, generating hope it could be amended. The bloc of over 100 countries which sought a meeting on the issue during the ministerial was led by India and the European Union.

WTO chief Pascal Lamy has asked Norweian foreign minister Jonas Store to hold informal talks and report the outcome to trade negotations committee which passes all resolutions.

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