labels: Trade
India slams WTO's 'divide-and-win' proposals news
21 May 2008

Crawford FalconerThe new negotiating draft of the World Trade Organisation, which is an effort to divide developing countries on the issue of tariff cuts on industrial products under the Doha Round of world trade negotiations, is "totally unacceptable,"  commerce secretary G K Pillai said.

India, he said, will thwart the ''divide-and-win'' proposals of the new WTO negotiating draft that pushes market access for industrial countries and ignores livelihood concerns in agriculture.

He said the revised proposals on tariff cuts on industrial goods and non-agricultural market access were a "total mess" with 97 areas of differences.

Although the number of differences in agriculture have come down, total neglect of livelihood concerns of the poor farmers is unacceptable, Pillai said, adding "there will be no deal if our core national interests are not protected," however hard the rich nations push for a ministerial meeting in June. (See: Revised WTO draft loaded against India, developing countries

The negotiating group for agriculture, chaired by Crawford Falconer, New Zealand's chief trade negotiator at the WTO, has retained the condition of 30 per cent drop in import-driven prices for a developing country to counter it by imposing safeguard duty, Pillai pointed out.

India had demanded the option of going for safeguard trigger if prices fall by 5-10 per cent.

The Nama-11 coalition of developing countries, comprising countries like Mexico and South Africa, has put out a "confusing" draft that seeks to divide the developing countries while targeting India and China, Pillai said.

Don Stephenson, chairman of the group, has done this by offering different formulae for tariff cut by developing countries.

"Our stand is very clear. You can do what you like but whatever flexibility is given to one country, should be given to all," Pillai said.

Canadian agriculture minister Gerry Ritz also voiced "serious concern" about the new proposals released by Crawford Falconer.

"Canada has serious concerns with some elements of the chair's draft text," Ritz said in a statement, particularly because "there has been so little progress in the area of sensitive products."

"Canada firmly opposes proposals for any over quota tariff cuts or tariff quota expansion for sensitive products," he said.

The new agriculture text leaves little leeway for India to designate Special Products and protect them 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 favour in the draft proposals for duty cuts on manufactured goods.

Europe's farmers also say they stand to lose sales worth at least 30 billion a year under new proposals, a leading European farmers representative said.
"From what we see, Europe is not getting anything like that back on industrial goods and certainly not on services," said Shelby Matthews, chief policy adviser for COPA COGECA, which represents European farmers.

Negotiations on the new WTO draft proposals on agriculture and industrial products will begin in Geneva from May 26. European trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said the WTO negotiators have made considerable progress in their efforts to clinch a deal on agriculture.

The Doha Round of world trade talks, now in its seventh year, have been stalled by rich countries' insistence of continuing with their agricultural subsidies while pressing developing countries for greater access for their agricultural goods in the developed world.

Rich countries are also seeking a better deal in emerging market economies for their industrial products and services. The new negotiating draft differs little from an earlier version on the figures to be included in a final accord.

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India slams WTO's 'divide-and-win' proposals