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‘Blame US for WTO impasse’

business Updated: Aug 01, 2008 00:28 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
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India on Thursday accused the United States of giving primacy to “commercial interests” over livelihood of billions of poor people that led to the breakdown of the latest round of multilateral trade negotiations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

“The US thought it fit to create an impasse on a safeguard mechanism... Not on commercial interest but livelihood… I can negotiate commerce but I cannot negotiate livelihood security,” Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said at a news conference in New Delhi.

The instruments of Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) were built into the Doha round of discussions held in 2001.

While the Special Products are designed to allow developing countries to impose higher duties on their vulnerable products, especially those affecting the livelihoods of subsistence farmers and affecting the food security of a nation, SSM is designed to protect farmers from sudden import surges and price dips by applying an additional safeguard duty over and above the bound rate.

“I told the WTO director general that India is ready to be on the table without compromising on issues that concern poor farmers of not only India but 100 other developing countries,” Nath said.

The trade talks held in Geneva collapsed on Tuesday after India and other developing countries insisted that there should be enough scope to protect subsistence farmers and small industries from being submerged by a flood of cheap imports from the US and the EU.

The commerce and industry minister said the developed countries were pressing for a proposal that would allow member states to raise import duties at a 40 per cent “volume trigger”.

“This meant that if the average imports of a product over the last three years is 100 tonnes, unless the imports crossed the level of 140 tonnes, the safeguard duty could not be activated,” he said.