Parliament must ratify WTO deals, say NGOs

Days ahead of the Nairobi meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for negotiations towards an agreement to open up global trade, civil society groups have urged the Union government not to undertake new binding commitments without public consultation as well as before debate and ratification by Parliament.

Organisations such as the Forum against Free Trade Agreements and the National Working Group on Patent Laws and WTO also asked Parliament to take inputs from all stakeholders and carry out a thorough assessment of the employment, social and environmental impacts arising out of the commitments India makes at the WTO-level talks as well as due to the various free trade agreements (FTA) between India and other countries.

They expressed concern over India engaging in ‘non-binding’ discussions on ‘new’ issues such as environment and labour that the developed world is keen on introducing during the December 15-18 meetings in the Kenyan capital. The new issues pertain to global value chains, e-commerce, competition and investment provisions, transparency in government procurement and state-owned enterprises.

The civil society groups alleged that the new issues — which the rich world terms as the latest challenges facing world trade — represent the corporate agenda of the advanced countries to further pry open developing country markets.

Support from Joshi

The civil society groups held a ‘National Convention’ here on issues related to the WTO meet and also received moral support for their cause from BJP leader and former Union Minister Murli Manohar Joshi and former BJP leader Govindacharya, who addressed the event.

Mr. Govindacharya said the government should publish a ‘white paper’ on the gains and losses from the WTO agreements and FTAs and place it before Parliament.

‘Battle for protection’

Mr. Joshi said India should treat the Nairobi meet as an ‘important battle’ for protection of the interests of poor farmers and small traders as well as India’s food security programmes.

The groups said India should provide leadership to developing countries by highlighting issues of concern to them, including reduction of ‘huge and trade distorting’ agri-business subsidies in developed countries.

‘Don’t relent on tariffs’

They said India should also ensure that the WTO mandate of ‘Special and Differential Treatment’ (S&DT) for developing countries is not abandoned by agreeing to aggressive tariff cuts in farm products — as demanded by the developed world.

S&DTgives developing countries, among other things, longer time periods for implementing WTO agreements and commitments as well as provisions for safeguarding their trade interests.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 6:40:45 AM |

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