Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)
Capacity Building of Media Personnel
Vijayawada, August 7, 2005
Consumers Guidance Society (CGS), Vijaywada – project partner for Andhra Pradesh – as an extension of project launch meeting organised a capacity building workshop for media personnel at Hotel Ilapuram, Vijayawada, on August 7, 2005. The meeting began with inaugural remarks by Ramana, President, Press Club, Vijaywada. He also chaired the entire meeting. Subsequently, a presentation was made by Divakar Babu, CGS. The presentation was discussed by Dr V K Parigi, Director, Rural Resources Group, Centre for Good Governance, Hyderabad, and Prof K R Choudhary, Retd. Professor, Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University. This was followed by another presentation on Indian textile sector and World Trade Organisation (WTO) by Dr D Narasimha Reddy. The two presentations were followed by discussions focused on issues related to agriculture and textiles & clothing (T&C) with implications for Andhra Pradesh. The meeting was attended by more than sixty invitees from the local media.
The objective of the meeting was to interact with the media personnel and also to undertake their capacity building on issues managed by the GRANITE project. It was organised basically to have a learning experience for the CGS team, towards organising a State-level media workshop, improving relations with the media and also to highlight the project’s objectives and outcomes.
Presentation I: WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AoA)
Diwakar Babu, CGS
- Two World Wars on the whole arose out of trade conflicts. Thus, trade assumes great importance in international relations.
- The presentation included:
- Genesis of International Trade Organisation (ITO) and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT);
- WTO objectives, structure and nature of working;
- Contrast between Multilateral financial institutions and WTO decision-making; and
- Principal features of AoA.
- The remarks included:
- Coming out of WTO may not be a feasible option, given the present circumstances; and
- On a comparative basis, WTO is more democratic and participatory.
Comments: This was more of a primary, information kind of presentation, principally to enable the participants to learn the basics.
V K Parigi
- We have freedom to come out or stay with WTO, through our national Parliament. On that score, our sovereign right is intact.
- Normally, people tend to look at only two viewpoints while discussing WTO: those opponents and proponents. The third viewpoint of proactive participation in WTO is never acknowledged.
- Discussion on WTO has to be dispassionate, and without prejudice. Because these are pure economic issues.
Dr K R Choudhary
- In India, there was no prior discussion on joining WTO.
- In Andhra Pradesh Assembly, there was a unanimous resolution rejecting Dunkel Draft. There were protests even. Yet, the signature was made. This doubts the kind of democracy that we have.
- WTO agreement is a huge text. While it looks innocent, a lot can be seen in between the lines.
- In USA, there is a specific law that says that in case of contradiction, American rule or law prevails over any international provision. This being the case with the nation that supposedly promotes free trade, India does not have such a provision.
- There are wide variations in the subsidies provided by different countries for their farmers. Rich nations have been and will continue to provide huge subsidies, often 90 percent of the production cost. Indian farmers, with all their problems, will not be able to compete on these terms. For this reason, India’s membership in the WTO can be debated upon.
In 1982, US trade representative suggested bringing all the other sectors under trade negotiations (because of their strong position then). However, agriculture was included subsequently.
Dr D Narasimha Reddy
- The presentation included:
- Principal features of Agreement on Textiles and clothing (ATC);
- Dimensions of international and national textile sectors;
- Strengths of Indian textile sector; and
- Available opportunities and threats.
- The remarks included-
- Indian textile sector has strengths to compete in post – ATC scenario,
- It is the most diversified national sector in the entire world,
- Handloom is the main platform on which Indian textile sector has been built,
- While being within WTO offers opportunities, within national sectors, lobbying and competition is leading to fissiparous policies to the detriment of the public interest and well-being of the textile sector,
- The political economy of India as given has a new kind of turf, where ruling classes are deepening their economic roots by using WTO as a weapon, and
- This needs to be subverted by public knowledge, consciousness and positive action.
There was a lively interaction and discussion subsequent to the presentation of viewpoints by the discussants in which media personnel drawn from vernacular press actively took part.