India’s concerns addressed at Doha talks, says WTO DDG

Original Publication Date: 
12 August, 2007

India's main areas of concern have been largely addressed at the ongoing Doha Round as trade negotiations enter the last phase with reasonably good prospects for a successful conclusion, Harsha Vardhana Singh, deputy director-general, World Trade Organisation (WTO), said here on Monday.

Addressing a Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) meeting on WTO and Doha Negotiations: Closing the Gaps and the Way Forward, Singh said the results of the negotiations, to be resumed in early September, would be known by late September or early October.

He expressed hopes that something positive would emerge from the discussions on non-agricultural market access (Nama) and agriculture drafts. "If the members feel that the situation was mature enough to convene a ministerial, we can do so either by the end of this year or in the next year. We usually have ministerial meeting after a gap of two years and it is due this year," he added.

Singh said the draft proposals, released in mid-July, offer greater sops for poor countries. According to him, the aid for trade initiative, which focuses on transparency, building up supply side capacities, along with possibilities of enhanced aid, would be a blessing for the poor nations.

On agriculture, Singh said India's concerns had been largely met, and the draft on agriculture shows sensitivity on the aspects of flexibility.

On Nama, the WTO official said the position was very comfortable for India. "We are very near the landing zone, which is not very far from the negotiating paper," he said.

Harsh Pati Singhania, chairman, Ficci Manufacturing Committee, and managing director, JK Paper Ltd, noted that the Nama draft in its present form was not acceptable to Indian industry as it did not reflect the concerns of developing countries and, in several ways, was not consistent with the Doha mandate.

However, the Nama Chair suggested a set of coefficients with a much narrower difference. "If we take the Swiss coefficient of 20 for developing and 8 for developed countries, then Nama-11 developing countries would have to undertake nearly 60% tariff cut on an average; developed countries, on the other hand, would be required to reduce their tariff by 28%," Singhania said.

This would be tantamount to the interests of developing countries, which can end up undertaking a relatively sharper tariff reduction compared with developed members, and as a Nama-11 statement puts it, "turning the concept of 'less than full reciprocity' on its head."

Singhania said an important area was the cursory treatment of non-tariff barriers ( NTBs) in the Draft. Clear direction and timelines are necessary because any meaningful negotiation on market access could not concentrate on tariffs alone, he pointed out.

Singhania also expressed Indian industry's concern at the attempts being made by Turkey to have a reverse sectoral for textiles and clothing to keep this outside the scope of full tariff reduction.