Doha Round: India won’t compromise rights of developing world (Lead)

December 8th, 2009 - 6:41 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 8 (IANS) India, which has taken the lead in re-energising the Doha Round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks, will ensure that the rights of the developing and poor nations are not compromised, the Rajya Sabha was told Tuesday.
“There is no question of India, while re-energising the Doha Round, compromising with the rights of the developing and poor nations,” Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said while responding to a calling attention motion in the Rajya Sabha on ‘The present status of the WTO negotiations’.

“India has all along maintained that it would re-energise and not reinvent the Doha Round,” he maintained.

Denying suggestions that India was under pressure from the developed world to alter its stance, particularly in areas like agriculture and market access, Sharma said: “India is only under one pressure and that is the pressure of its interests, its people and its farmers.

“The main negotiating issues and the key elements from India’s perspective in the Doha Round are to honour the development dimension; protecting the interest of poor farmers and industry and seeking greater market opportunities for its farmers and industry,” the minister added.

“India has always been a strong protagonist of the multilateral trading system. We have consistently maintained that an early conclusion of the Doha Round is in our best interests,” Sharma pointed out.

In this context, he noted that the informal ministerial meeting India had hosted in September had “signalled considerable political enthusiasm for an early conclusion of the Doha Round”.

Sharma also detailed India’s three-point stand on the vexed issue of agriculture:

* A special products lists that the developing countries will self-designate,

* A special safeguards mechanism to deal with volume surges of agricultural products, and

* A drastic cut of agricultural subsidies in the developed world that are trade distorting.

“There can be no agreement with these subsidies in place,” the minister maintained.

“We have a firm and categorical position on agriculture and NAMA (non-agricultural market access: How do we safeguard vulnerable industries of the developing world?”

Sharma noted in this context that the years 2007 and 2008 had seen intensive discussions and considerable progress on many elements of agriculture and NAMA modalities.

“These include the formulae and methodology for cutting tariffs on agricultural and industrial goods, reducing domestic subsidies in agriculture and phasing out export subsidies, as will as the contours of flexibilities and exemptions from tariff cuts on both agricultural and industrial goods,” the minister added.

On the question of market access, Sharma said India’s position was to “harmonise” the positions of the developing and the developed world without “affecting the interests” of the former.

Moving the calling attention motion, N.K. Singh of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) termed as non-desirable India’s agreement in July for a greater role for the WTO secretariat - implying this would give the developed world a greater say in the organisation.

“I want an assurance to the house that the integrity of the WTO does not deteriorate into the exploitation of the developing economies. I want an assurance that trade will remain an engine of growth and will not lead to the exploitation of emerging economies,” he demanded.

In reply, Sharma said: “WTO is a member driven organisation. The secretariat does not decide matters, the members do. There is no question of harbouring fears or concerns on this score.”

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