WTO Wirodhi Bharatiya Jan Abhiyan: Statement on the Eve of 7th WTO Ministerial in Geneva

Original Publication Date: 
29 November, 2009

WTO Wirodhi Bharatiya Jan Abhiyan
(Indian People's Campaign Against WTO)
Mailing Add: C/o, Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), E-1, 2nd Floor, Green Park Ext., New Delhi-16
Tel (Pune): 020 - 30258479 ; Email: manjuspshukla@gmail.com ; wto.virodhi@gmail.com
Statement on the Eve of 7th WTO Ministerial in Geneva
29th November 2009
The Seventh WTO ministerial meeting will be held in Geneva through 30.11.09 - 02.12.09.
The negotiations in various negotiating groups in Geneva are proceeding in a non-transparent manner. However, there are reasons to believe that India has substantially moved away from its earlier position, particularly in regard to Agriculture as well as NAMA (Non-Agricultural Market Access) and is virtually ready to accept what was dramatically rejected by the erstwhile Commerce Minister Kamal Nath less than a year ago under the UPA-I. The reasons for such a volte face are not known. The statements emanating from government spokespersons give the impression that ground is being prepared for justifying such an eventuality.
IPCAWTO had issued a detailed statement on the eve of the mini-ministerial meeting convened by the Commerce Minister in New Delhi on 3-4th September 2009. IPCAWTO had warned that there was much more to lose than gain in reviving the Doha Round. Indeed the built-in tilt of the Doha Round against the interests of developing countries was further reinforced as the negotiations proceeded from year to year.
Our interests in agriculture, which is dominated by small and marginal peasantry engaged in largely rain fed agriculture, are essentially defensive. But the government have steadfastly refused even to explore the possibility of arming itself with effective trade policy instruments such as quantitative restrictions. Furthermore, within the biased and self-serving negotiating framework imposed by the rich agriculture exporting countries, it has yielded ground by indicating acceptance of formulae leading to drastic tariff cuts across the board and showing willingness to further dilute the weak safeguards ostensibly intended to protect the interests of the vast masses poor peasantry. Indeed it appears that what was dramatically rejected by the erstwhile Commerce Minister of UPA I only a year or so ago is now apparently being considered acceptable. The notorious price volatility of international agricultural markets combined with the absence of effective instrument of quantitative restrictions and diluted and narrowly conceived safeguard measures will pose an unprecedented threat to the livelihood and survival of the vast working class dependent on agriculture. To make the matters worse, the rich countries have not agreed to make any real and substantial reductions in the subsidies to their agriculture which have been adversely affecting the interests of the third world peasantry through unfair competition in global markets.
In regard to industrial products, autonomous liberalization of imports combined with the slump in export markets of employment intensive industries like textiles, garments, leather and leather goods and gems and jewelry have already had devastating effects on our industry, particularly the small and medium sectors. The policy space now available to raise industrial tariffs to protect indigenous industry as necessary will be severely reduced by the tariff cutting formulae now being accepted in the industrial sector. In the wake of the recession, there are strong protectionist tendencies in the developed countries and they are also fiercely trying to open new markets for their flagging industries. In its willingness, nay, enthusiasm for providing new impetus to the negotiations, government appears to be paving the way for de-industrialization.
As if this were not enough, the government is busy pushing the next phase of “reforms” in the financial sector. In the wake of the unprecedented financial crisis the global finance capital is keen to enter the financial services sector in the emerging market like ours which is still not fully integrated with the global market. This would help them spread risk and appropriate new avenues for speculative gains. In the process our financial sector would get more and more exposed and vulnerable. In the Services negotiations, the developed countries are pushing the agenda of liberalizing and integrating the financial services sector of developing countries like ours so that what is being done by the government of the day is secured multilaterally and under international law. Such liberalization poses a real danger of blunting the national regulatory authority in the crucial field of money and banking. The devastating effects of the absence of effective regulatory control in financial services sector in USA are too recent and well- known to bear repetition.
All in all there is no reason to justify any keenness, much less enthusiasm, on the part of our government and negotiators to breathe a new life in the negotiations which were lying dormant for a year or more. Their stance becomes even more inexplicable if one recalls that the USA without whom no WTO negotiations can reach any conclusion have been lackadaisical and the US Congress has not yet given the fast- track authority to USTR, nor has US Administration asked for it. Without such authorization, there is a real danger of USA first egging on others to make maximum concessions without showing their hand and then, when the final stage arrives for seeking the approval of the Congress, “asking for more” from others to satisfy the fresh demands being made by the Congress as a condition for its approval.
IPCAWTO appeals to the peasantry, the workers, the craftsmen, all patriotic elements and particularly the youth, committed to self-reliant, just, prosperous and egalitarian India, to join the campaign to not only thwart the government move to revive and conclude the WTO negotiations expeditiously at the present juncture but also to compel the Indian Government to thoroughly reorient its stand in international negotiations so that it fully accords with the interest of working people.
Issued by Members of the Indian Peoples Campaign Against WTO
Convenor S.P. Shukla

S. P. Shukla
Indian People’s Campaign Against WTO
C/o, The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA);
E-1, 2nd Floor,
Green Park Extension,
New Delhi – 110 016,
Email: manjuspshukla@gmail.com;