Pinning hopes on the Bali Ministerial meet in December for further progress of the WTO Doha round trade negotiations, India on Monday warned that if no progress was made on the G-33 proposal of developing countries like India to deal with food security issues, the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) progress could also stand stalled.
“If talks on the G-33 proposal of developing countries like India, which deals with food security issues, does not move forward at the meeting, the TFA may also not see any progress. India is looking for a possible outcome in Bali meet. Last week’s development in Geneva does give us a sense of positivity. We feel that things will move. But we are also circumspect that if the G-33 proposal and some of the developmental elements do not move, then TFA also may not move,” additional secretary in the Commerce Ministry, Rajeev Kher said here at a WTO function.
Under the TFA, a proposal of developed countries, WTO members are negotiating ways to facilitate trade, simplify and harmonise customs rules and reduce transactions cost.
Mr. Kher, who is also India’s chief negotiator at WTO, said that although India is willing to negotiate on TFA, it has raised a few concerns over the proposed agreement as it would entail huge investments in creating infrastructure at ports and airports. “TFA is a desirable agreement. But the way it is placed on the table, it does not have all the elements the developing countries would want,” he added.
He said TFA would put tremendous burden on developing countries like India in terms of requirement of human resource, finances, infrastructure and more in terms of changing laws and procedures and practices. The ninth WTO Ministerial Conference would be held in Bali from December 3 to December 6. The Ministerial Conference is the highest decision-making body of the 158-member multi-lateral Organisation, which meets at least once every two years.
The G-33 proposal, mooted by developing countries like India and China, is for food security and flexibility in their public stock holding operations for public distribution system.
Mr. Kher said that the WTO’s pre-dominance in trade discourse must be upheld. “We have shown tremendous flexibility and we are dropping brackets on resolving contentious matters very significantly and on the other hand there is a very little movement in the G-33 proposal on food security and that is where the problem is,” he said.
He said that the proposal was open-ended and that India was ready to negotiate flexibilities and other alternatives. He also expressed concern that if the Bali meet would not deliver anything, there may not be any Doha Round in the future as new agendas have already been emerging.
Rich nations, including the U.S., want India and other emerging economies to be part of the four major sectoral pacts — TFA, information technology, environmental goods and international services agreement. “India has said that it will not accept any agreement on IT and environmental goods as it would adversely impact the domestic industry,” he added.