BUSINESS

Drop three Singapore issues from WTO agenda — FICCI

NEW DELHI, 19. While calling on the visiting the EU Trade Commissioner, Pascal Lamy, here on Monday, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry President, Y. K. Modi, reiterated Indian industry's demand for keeping the three Singapore issues — investment, competition policy and transparency in Government procurement — out of the WTO agenda. The demand was made in response to what the Commissioner Mr. Lamy described as `more sophisticated flexibility' in the EU position on the contentious Singapore issues with EC having put investment and competition policy on the back-burner while letting transparency in Government procurement and trade facilitation stay in the front-burner.

On the question of `unbundling' of Singapore issues, the Trade Commissioner stated that he was ready to consider the first two issues outside the `single undertaking.'

However, Mr. Modi pointed out that a plurilateral approach would lead to a two-tier system of membership within WTO that is contrary to the fundamental philosophy of the multilateral trade organisation.

During the discussions Mr. Lamy's attention also drawn to the need for moving ahead with negotiations in services and non-agricultural market access. Since India has significant offensive interests in services, Mr. Lamy felt that it would be in India's favour to ensure early conclusion of negotiations in this area.

In agriculture, the FICCI chief emphasised the case for negotiation on reduction of Amber Box support measures on a product-specific basis, bringing down Blue Box measures to eventual phase-out and strengthening of Green Box disciplines on direct payments.

On market access, developing countries like India should be provided with a flexible formula so that their large agriculture-dependent population is not subjected to the shock of a steep reduction in farm tariff, Mr. Modi said underlining the urgent need for establishing a clear timetable for abolition of export subsidies.

While appreciating FICCI's concerns, Mr. Lamy said he did not perceive any serious difficulty in agriculture negotiations, and that EU was ready to eliminate export subsidy for agricultural goods that are of developing countries' interests.

Once EU receives such lists from India and other developing nations, the timetable could be worked out quickly. As regards market access in agriculture, the strategic positions of EU and India are quite similar, he elaborated.

About in India's concerns on textiles trade, Mr. Lamy assured that, in the post-quota period, the incidence of anti-dumping duties would not be accelerated. But he highlighted the need for concluding negotiations on stricter disciplines on anti-dumping related rules by end-2004. He also suggested improvements in India's anti-dumping mechanism since, according to the EU, it is currently below the WTO-standard in several aspects including `disclosure.'

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