India to expand staff at WTO Secretariat

MADURAI, JULY 24. India is trying to expand its staff strength at the World Trade Organisation Secretariat in Geneva to meet the increasing requirements, R. Srinivasan, Economic Adviser, Ministry of Commerce, said here on Friday.

The rich nations were able to operate better with their staff permanently stationed there, while Indian bureaucrats and experts were travelling to Geneva whenever necessary. India was right now thinly staffed, he noted.

Delivering a lecture on "WTO and India" in the School of Economics, Madurai Kamaraj University, Dr. Srinivasan said the Ministry was looking at increasing the staff strength though it was a costly affair. There had been a change in the attitude of countries towards India and it "is presently heard seriously at the WTO."

On the progress made in the several rounds of WTO talks, he said the developing nations were able to convince the other member countries on what they wanted.

"The Indian approach at the WTO has been on food security and livelihood. Under no circumstance, will we agree to what threatens our country's interests," he said, adding that the objective was to ensure a larger market access.

Domestic needs `safeguarded'

Touching upon the Doha and Cancun rounds of talks that focused on various trade issues, he said the debate revolved around three vital subjects — agriculture, services and environment — which were important for India.

Dr. Srinivasan said that there were special measures to protect domestic needs though "everyone must understand that negotiation means not just asking, but also giving."

He said the developing countries at the WTO, which were about 70, had less bargaining power.

Talking about the overall advantages of the WTO, he said free trade and economic growth were positively interrelated.

"Because of liberalisation, we are today talking of eight per cent GDP growth while in the pre-liberalisation days the rate was just 3.5 per cent," he said.

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