Associations of Indian industry have welcomed the trade deal reached at the Bali Ministerial Conference on Saturday for its potential to make the World Trade Organisation relevant in a multilateral trade regime. It will benefit India’s exports and shift the focus away from preferential trade arrangements.
Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Naina Lal Kidwai said the Bali outcome showed that the WTO could still deliver and the Doha development round could move forward.
Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, former Secretary, Multilateral Economic Relations, Ministry of External Affairs, said: “This agreement will at least keep it [the WTO] on life support.” He was referring to the decade-long deadlock in negotiations preceding Bali that had led to countries opting for preferential trade arrangements (PTAs) such as free trade agreements.
Economists say that in the absence of progress on the Doha Round, 60 per cent of world trade had moved to PTAs.
During the Bali negotiations, Indian industry had backed the Centre, and the Confederation of Indian Industry termed the pact on food security “critical” to the success of the Ministerial. After the negotiations ended, the CII said the accord would not only boost transparency and predictability but also help reduce business transaction costs.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry felt the agreement on food security would ensure a fair deal to vulnerable sections in developing countries. The trade facilitation pact would improve efficiency at international trade borders.
The Bali agreement will benefit exporters, said the Engineering Export Promotion Council. “Life would be much easier’’ thanks to the promise of uniform, transparent and efficient transactions across the world, said EEPC India Chairman Anupam Shah.
A farmers’ organisation, however, said the only possible gain was the peace clause. Alleging “deliberate ambiguity” in the text, the All India Kisan Sabha apprehended a freeze on expansion of food security or price support to farmers in developing countries and exclusion of pulses, cooking oil and crops other than those described as traditional staples by the WTO. Support subsidies for poor farmers across all developing countries get safeguards against WTO rules after the Bali Ministerial decision.
Mr. Chakravarty described the negotiations as a trade-off that led to dilution of the peace clause. It was achieved in part due to India’s position, indicating its willingness to compromise on eight out of 10 issues. “It is a good thing we stood our ground. The whole problem is due to the approach of the developed countries which want to keep what they have and are essentially fighting a battle to preserve their prosperity.”