Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, May 16-17, 2006
Network of Entrepreneurship & Economic Development (NEED), Lucknow, in association with CUTS International, Jaipur and Uttar Pradesh (UP) Council of Agricultural Research (UPCAR), organised an action awareness-cum-capacity building workshop at Kisan Mandi Bhawan, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow, on May 16-17, 2006. About 110 participants attended the workshop, including representatives of government departments, CSOs, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and Universities etc.
The two days workshop covered the each possible aspects of state’s agriculture in the context of WTO. The two experts Pranav Kumar of CUTS International, Jaipur and Abhijeet Das of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), New Delhi explained the issues and implications of different aspects of WTO for UP.
The workshop aimed to focus on the core groups of government departments, civil society organisations (CSOs), universities and other stakeholders on ‘Basic Functionalities of World Trade Orgnisation (WTO)’ with special reference to Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) and the current status of textile and clothing (T&C).
Day One: May 16, 2006
In the inaugural session on the first day, Principal Secretary (Agriculture), UP, Arun Kumar Mishra emphasised the need to prepare and improve the quality of agricultural products to compete in the WTO regime. The chief guest Dr Ashok Bajpai appreciated this initiative of NEED and expressed necessity to organise such workshops on a regular basis. He also expressed desire to grant all the facilities for organising such programmes. He also stated that WTO is a necessity, not an option, so it is necessary to strengthen Indian perspective in this regard.
Dr Chandrika Prasad, the Director General, UPCAR presented a brief note on the outcome of Hong Kong Ministerial and their implications. Anil K Singh, CEO of NEED elaborated the need and necessity for such programmes. He stated that States do not have enough space to express their priorities and concerns for negotiations in WTO. Anil K Singh emphasised that the issue related to agriculture and the land rights are constitutionally the mandate of state but in operation, it is never brought to the State level so far as WTO issues are concerned. Agriculture being the major and critical sector in WTO, it is important to involve the stakeholders into the capacity building intervention. Kobid Kumar, Chairman, UPCAR pointed out that the confusions regarding WTO issues needs to be removed.
Three books on WTO – ‘WTO and Agreement on Agriculture’, ‘WTO-Clothing and Textile Sector’ and ‘ABC of WTO’ written and edited by Anil K Singh – were launched on the occasion.
This was a technical session, in which the resource person, Pranav Kumar of CUTS International, Jaipur, presented an overview on the origin and evolution of WTO, including its transition from GATT to WTO. He also explained the difference between GATT and WTO.
In session three, Pranav Kumar explained the opportunities and threats from WTO before outlining India’s current stand on WTO regarding AoA. He questioned: what is the special and differential treatment (S&DT) for developing countries under the WTO AoA?
The issue related to food security and public distribution system including India’s obligation under WTO AoA came up for discussion in this session. This session also covered the possible implications and prospects of these obligations for UP. Pranav Kumar answered all the queries of the participants in simple words who were representing different organisations.
Day Two: May 17, 2006
This session was a technical session, in which Abhijeet Das of UNCTAD presented a critical analysis of the functionalities of boxes driven subsidies, their implications and India’s current stand on WTO as well as the future suggested roadmap.
Abhijeet Das discussed India’s current stand in T&C, particularly handloom and handicraft sector from the WTO perspective. Both these discussions –functionalities of boxes-driven subsidies and India’s stand on T&C – were experiential talks with concurrent sessions. These discussions helped identified the possible area of action by UP Government with regard to the WTO issues.
This post lunch session was an interactive session: first Abhijeet Das presented an overview on offensive and defensive steps which state should take for the protection of agriculture and textile sector in the era of WTO.
In this session, both the resource persons had a quick glance at the WTO terminology to know its practical utility and clarity. In this interactive session a possible agenda emerged regarding the possible action. The session ended with remark from chief guest for valedictory session RN Sharma. He offered his support for further programmes on the preparedness of UP vis-à-vis WTO obligations. Assistant Director General-UPCAR, RN Pandey and the Secretary JP Garg also participated in the workshop
The two days brainstorming sessions and interaction with resource persons resulted in Pro Poor Perspectives driven recommendations. These recommendations have been submitted to the Chief Secretary, Government of UP, Agricultural Production Commissioner, UP, the Principal Secretaries, the Cabinet State Ministers and many other senior Policy-makers for their active consideration and necessary initiatives. The main recommendations, as a result, of this state workshop are as follows:
- Necessity to Set up a Committee with NEED and UPCAR for the Effective Functioning of WTO Cell in UP
There is a need to constitute a committee under the WTO Cell with an active association of NEED, Lucknow, which is already functioning under UPCAR. The committee will recognise the offensive and defensive interests of UP regarding possible opportunities and threats under WTO, including possible products for registration under Geographical Indicators (GI). The committee will be responsible for preparing the technical and policy decisions and recommend and pursue the issues of state interests on regular basis to the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India. The WTO Cell, through this committee, shall act as a bridge between the Centre and State so far as the issues and concerns related to the food security, safety, protection and trade and economic generation of the poor including Domestic Reform Gaps are concerned.
- Representation of State Minister in Ministerial Meet of the WTO
Since the agriculture and land rights are constitutionally the mandate of state, and UP being the largest state both in terms of population and agriculture economy, the Minister of Agriculture Portfolio is very much required to take part in WTO related Ministerial Meet. Additionally, state representation in national and regional delegation for ministerial trade negotiations is necessary.
- Capacity Building Intervention across the State
There is no awareness regarding the WTO issues. It is, therefore, the first and foremost requirement to generate awareness on basic functionalities of WTO issues and their possible implications on state economy. It can be done by organising awareness and capacity building programmes with Government Departments and senior officials representing state, region, district and block level. It is here, NEED Intervention with WTO Cell shall matter a lot in fulfilling the mission of this recommendations.
- Raising the Investment Expenditure in Agriculture
Keeping in view the expected opportunities and threats, it is necessary to increase the government investment in agricultural education, research and extension services.