Let our trade minister negotiate

July 28, 2008, New Delhi
“The on-going mini-ministerial of trade ministers in Geneva to take forward the Doha Round of negotiations has reached a critical stage and India is getting increasingly marginalised. It is not just due to huge pressure from the rich nations to open up its markets for agriculture and industrial goods but more because our trade minister is not allowed to negotiate freely,” said Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS, a leading consumer policy research and advocacy group, which works on trade and regulatory issues.

“I am not allowed to negotiate” is what Kamal Nath reportedly said yesterday. This is symptomatic of the negotiating style which the rich follow to brow beat the poor, just overwhelm otherwise call them spoilsports.

Most of our concerns on market access in agriculture and industry have been either rejected or diluted. For instance, the Indian industry is very much against the application of anti-concentration clause on flexibilities in industrial goods but that is there in the Chair’s revised text.

“Kamal Nath has asserted that these talks are becoming more like advancing the interests of prosperous classes while ignoring those whose livelihood security depends crucially on trade and trade-related matters”, said Mehta.

It is worth recalling that at the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference of the WTO (World Trade Organisation) in December, 2005, Kamal Nath did a tremendous job in protecting and advancing India’s interests.

“He worked wonders (at Hong Kong)”, observed the noted trade economist, Jagdish Bhagwati in a communication to CUTS.

It was he who convened a meeting of all developing and least developed countries (the Group of 110 countries) at Hong Kong which salvaged the Doha Round from the brink of a collapse and yet without compromising on the interests of the poor. Even leaders of our Left parties praised him for his statesmanship with a pragmatic approach.

For more information, please contact:
Pradeep S Mehta, +9198290 13131, psm@cuts.org
Bipul Chatterjee, +9198292 85921, bc@cuts.org