Safeguarding the interests of India's low income and resource-poor agricultural producers in the agriculture negotiations "remains paramount for us and this cannot be traded off against any gains elsewhere in the negotiations," union minister of commerce and industry Kamal Nath has said.
Addressing the parliamentary consultative committee meeting of his ministry on the ''Status of Doha Round Negotiations'' on Wednesady 30 April, Nath said, ''Our defensive concerns in agriculture are mainly in the market access pillar of the negotiations which deals with tariff cuts. We are clear that we will not take an overall cut of more that 36 per cent in our bound rates''.
On the issue of domestic support to agriculture, Nath said that the G-20, of which India is a member, has been demanding substantial and effective cuts in overall trade-distorting domestic support by the developed countries.
He also said, ''We have reached a critical stage. The chairs of the negotiations groups on agriculture and NAMA are expected to bring out revised texts in early May. A ministerial level meeting is likely to be held towards the end of May.''
On 'special products' (SPs), Nath said ''We have made it clear that this issue is critical to the livelihood of our subsistence farmers and our food security and that the final outcome must be to our full satisfaction.'' On 'special safeguard mechanism' (SSM), he informed the members that a lot of work remained to be done as the present proposals were cumbersome, restrictive and ineffective.
On non-agricultural market access (NAMA), the minister said, ''We have made it clear that the mandate of less than full reciprocity (LTFR) in reduction commitments by developing countries must be respected which means lower percentage reduction from bound rates by developing countries vis-à-vis the commitments by developed countries. Flexibilities available only to developing countries for protecting sensitive tariff lines from the impact of tariff reductions or bindings are an inviolable part of the mandate and crucial for safeguarding livelihood and employment concerns''.
On Services, Nath informed the members that negotiations were underway and India was very keen to take the services negotiations forward as services contribute to more than 55 per cent of our GDP and a substantial portion of our trade. Services are a major driver of India's economic growth and development and provide opportunities for gainful employment, he added.