WTO not a charity: Jaitley

NEW DELHI OCT. 22. India favours early start of talks to put the derailed WTO negotiation process back on the track for realisation of the ultimate objective of shared global prosperity but ruled out Cancun draft as a starting point for future engagements.

Putting forth India's perception at a seminar on ``Reflections on Post-Cancun Agenda: The Way Ahead'' organised by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the Union Commerce Minister, Arun Jaitley, today said that the lull that followed the Cancun ministerial must be broken and rich nations must understand and address the concerns of the developing nations for a meaningful forward movement.

He declared that ``September 13 draft (Cancun draft) cannot be the starting point of any discussion... It completely failed to gauge the mood at Cancun and, in fact, was contrary to the mood prevalent there. It was, in fact, the main cause of the stalemate there.

The draft did not reflect the true picture at Cancun, Mr. Jaitley said adding that agriculture held the key for any future negotiations and what was proposed in the draft in the farm sector was very ``scary'' for developing countries like India, having not just economic but social ramifications.

He made in clear that any WTO negotiations could not be just ``take and take'' and India would adopt a give-and-take approach so as to maximise gains. And there was no alternative to rule-based multilateral trading system and it was in the fitness of things that the country responded to the emerging situation in a mature manner.

``WTO is not a charity, it is a market place. One has to pay for what he gets and if one pays he has to maximise gains by adopting a prudent approach,'' he said adding that criticism in the media and by various trade bodies, if some concessions were made in certain areas, was always not justifiable, as the cumulative effect should not be lost sight off. Trade negotiations were always a two-way process and it had to be a win-win outcome for all the parties to reach an agreement.

Mr. Jaitley said though the Cancun meet failed, it had several positive features and it was time that member countries buried their differences and moved forward. ``This lull needs to be broken. We need to pick up the thread from where we left it at Cancun. We have to see where the problem lies and have a participatory and transparent approach.''

On Singapore issues, Mr. Jaitley made it clear that they could not be part of any future negotiations, particularly investment and competition on which E.U. legitimacy had been dented.

On agriculture, he maintained that the September 13 draft had made only marginal reference to reduction in subsidies even as it sought higher reductions in tariffs to the detriment of developing countries.

``It expected larger gains from developing nations than developed nations,'' he said adding that tariff, which was only a second level of protection, was also being sought to be taken away.

Talking about the severe consequences of the high domestic support and export subsidies in developed nations, Mr. Jaitley said they depressed prices so drastically that it threatened the very livelihood of poor farmers.

The poor countries have social and political compulsions and reforms could not be thrust upon them without removing the distortions hurting their interests.

Mr. Jaitley admired the role played by his predecessor, Murasoli Maran, during the Doha round. Even as he faced isolation, Mr. Maran's efforts resulted in acceptance of the concept of ``explicit consensus'', which helped the alliances stall the ``unfair'' draft pushed by the developed nations.

On survival of the G-21 or G-16, the Minister said let the groupings be known as ``G-X". In view of the changing numbers, he reminded that the developing nations demonstrated that things, which were not acceptable to them, would not be endorsed.

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