“At present the Doha round has boiled down to mere sloganeering, without addressing the fundamental issues of negotiations,” said Prof. T N Srinivasan, a noted trade economist of the Yale University, USA. While the Indian Commerce Minister at Geneva last week said that India is ready to negotiate commerce but not subsistence, developed countries argue that “Indias, Brazils and Chinas” of this world should open up their market. Given the prevailing imbroglio, in all likelihood the Doha round is to remain in cold storage for several years.
He was delivering a lecture on “The Future of the Global Trading System: Doha Round and Beyond”. This was organized by CUTS International to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economics & Environment (CUTS-CITEE). The meeting was chaired by Dr. Kirit Parikh, an eminent economist and member of the Planning Commission.
Prof. Srinivasan was critical of India’s stance on Special Products in agriculture negotiations. Simply mouthing out demand for a large number without looking at its welfare implications is not going to serve any purpose. The identification of Special Products must be based and backed up by sound credible research. Responding to this Indian Commerce Secretary Shri S N Menon said that India has identified products and tariff lines after doing extensive research and consultations with the stakeholders. The Planning Commission of India is extensively involved in this exercise besides other major think tanks.
On the issue of bilateral trade agreements, it is very important to identify our partners, speakers said. One must understand that going with large number of negative lists will not lead us anywhere. However, Prof. Srinivasan warned India of going for bilateral with USA. With USA it is very difficult to get a good deal because of its tendencies to press for inclusion of TRIPs plus commitments, labour and other non-trade issues in the negotiating agenda.
Taking forward the discussion, the Commerce Secretary Shri Menon said that India has shown flexibility in the negotiations given the fact that it was not a demandeur of the Doha round. In manufacturing, India has brought down its average tariffs substantially to 12.5% and will continue to reduce them. On services India has tried to work closely with the USA and co-sponsored some submissions.
CUTS Secretary General Pradeep Mehta highlighted the important role that the organisation has been playing over a decade. When CUTS started its work on trade issues in early 1990s, any possible role by a consumer organization in trade policy research and policymaking was looked at with scepticism. However, CUTS beat all such scepticism by not only raising awareness level of different stakeholders’ groups but also doing credible research and analysis, which provided significant inputs in the policy-making process in India and other countries.
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