Opposition in the Rajya Sabha trained its guns on the Government over the World Trade Organisation talks with Commerce Minister Anand Sharma denying these were being resumed under pressure from the U.S.
“No question of pressure. When it comes to India’s trade policy, the pressure is the interest of its people, its farmers and its industry. There is no question of being pro-America…we are pro-India,” Mr. Sharma said after coming under attack from the BJP, SP, TDP and others.
Mr. Sharma who returned recently after attending the 7th Ministerial meeting of the WTO at Geneva said that though it was not a substantive negotiating round, the issue of conducting rule-based global trade through the Doha Round was discussed.
“The main negotiating issues and the key elements from India’s perspective in the Doha Round are to honour the development dimension; protecting the interests of poor farmers and industry and seeking greater market opportunities for its farmers and industry. India has been engaging with coalition groups to ensure that India’s key interests are maintained,” he said.
Responding to the criticism by the Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley that the Minister [Mr. Sharma] not mix foreign policy with trade policy and on the continuation of subsidies by the developed countries to farmers, the Minister said the negotiations were ‘re-energised’ to address the historical distortions and have a rule-based global trade regime that protected the poor farmers and vulnerable industries.
As for subsidies by the developed countries to its farmers, he said, negotiations were on emphasising that these have to be drastically cut as much as by 70 per cent. He said there was no question of agreeing with the kind of subsidies the U.S. and European Union provide to its farmers.
With Mr. Jaitely stating that negotiations in the services sector, in which India has greater stakes, were slow, the Minister said any agreement had to include liberalisation in the area and that is of interest to India. This has to be done in a single undertaking, he emphasised.
As for agriculture, Mr. Sharma said India’s bound tariff of 114 per cent offered room to negotiate and protect the interests of farmers.
On industrial products, he said, there was no question of India yielding and the principle of zero-for-zero duty in some would have to be non-mandatory.