India warns against diluting farm protection at world trade talks

15 May 2008


Mumbai: The chances of a world trade deal under the Doha Round will be bleak if the us has its way on scaling down protection to farmers in developing countries, India told the agricultural negotiating group in Geneva ahead of the release of fresh WTO proposals.

The World Trade Organisation, in its efforts to finalise a draft for adoption at the Doha Round of negotiations for a multilateral trade deal, said it has wrapped up three-month-old discussions and will come out with fresh proposals on agriculture in the next few days.

"It will become clear in the next few days whether the US and other developed countries are serious to conclude the Doha negotiations, which have dragged for seven long years," a commerce ministry official said.

Crawford Falconer, chairman of the negotiating group on agriculture, has concluded three months of official-level discussions with major WTO member countries and is expected to release a fresh draft in the next few days.

Developing countries like India, including members of the G-33, is apprehensive of the US exerting pressure on the negotiating group to cut the number of special products (SPs), on which the developing countries are allowed to remain non-committal in duty reduction.

While the last negotiating text released in February this year had proposed that between 12-20 per cent of the total agriculture items can be designated as SPs, the US and eight other exporting countries have brought in a proposal of restricting the protection level to 8 per cent.

"This is a bogus proposal and is totally unacceptable. They (the US) themselves come out with hot balloons and then have the audacity to point fingers at India, Brazil and China that we are not being constructive," the official said.

He said India's "loud and clear" message was also conveyed to US trade representative Susan Schwab by commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath at their last meetings in New York on May 7 and 8.

Indian officials, who were engaged in negotiations at the WTO headquarters in Geneva for the last several weeks, have since returned and are waiting for the "fresh draft."

The revised draft text would be circulated "at the end of this week or at the beginning of the week after".
"Things will be clear as to who stands where once the new negotiating draft is on the table," the official added.

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