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‘WTO’s draft on agriculture disappointing’

India said it is disappointed by negotiating drafts on agriculture and industrial products brought by the World Trade Organisation.

business Updated: May 20, 2008 21:45 IST

India on Tuesday said it was disappointed by negotiating drafts on agriculture and industrial products brought by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in a bid to conclude the stalled talks on a new treaty on global commerce.

The revised texts on agriculture and industrial goods, released late Monday in Geneva, propose to curtail the ability of developing countries to shield their farmers and industries from cheap imports.

If the new agriculture text is adopted, India will be allowed to designate less number of Special Products, which it can protect from unrestricted imports from agro-exporting countries like the US, Canada and Australia.

Likewise, India's plea for greater flexibility in protecting its industries, including small and medium units, has not found much favour in the draft proposals for duty cuts on manufactured goods,

“If our core national interests are not protected, then we would not have a deal,” Commerce Secretary G.K.Pillai said.

India’s main contention is on the special safeguard mechanism (SSM) for agriculture products. The draft text proposes to allow member states to raise import duties only if the world prices are lower than domestic prices by over 30 per cent.

Effectively, the proposal, if adopted by WTO, would leave the government with very limited options to protect farmers in case the domestic market is flooded with imported produce at price slightly lower than the domestic price.

“A price trigger of 30 per cent is completely unacceptable to us”, Pillai said. The draft text released by Chairman of the negotiating group on agriculture Crawford Falconer, does not include India’s and many other developing country’s proposal of setting the “price trigger” at between 5 and 10 per cent.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said the negotiating process will intensify soon “as members begin to look across and seek to find the balance that will deliver for us all an ambitious and development oriented round.”

On the trade in industrial goods, often referred to as non-agricultural market access (NAMA), India’s trade negotiators said there was clear attempt to use a “divide and rule” policy. “The text clearly attempts to divide and rule the developing group of nations. There is a special set of rules to countries such as South Africa, Venezuela and Mexico and clearly India and China seem to be targeted,” Pillai said.

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