Jul 7, 2008

WTO: More Worrying Signs

India's Trade Minister warns WTO Director-General of the dangers of holding a Ministerial meeting if too many issues remain unresolved at officials' level. We quote some passages

In a three-page letter handed over to Lamy last week, a copy of which is provided to Business Standard, Nath struck "a note of caution" on numerous unresolved issues in agriculture, market-opening for industrial goods, services, rules, and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)-related issues as well as about the process to be adopted ahead of the ministerial meeting.
"For India," said Nath, there has to be much greater clarity on Special Products and the Special Safeguard Mechanism, underscoring the need for stabilising the architecture of these two measures soon in order to be reflected in the revised texts, "preferably with no square brackets".

"Rapid progress also needs to be made simultaneously on Tropical Products and Preference Erosion, Tariff capping, Tariff simplification, Green Box disciplines and Cotton [subsidies]", said Nath, arguing that "without closure on these issues it is open to debate as to what the ministers will be able to achieve."
Commenting on market access for industrial goods, Nath said "wide divergences still persist", pointing that "the question of two sets of coefficients, the concept of the sliding scale, preference erosion lists and anti-concentration provisions for the duty-free quota-free scheme are subjects which hold the potential to be divisive and needs to be addressed".
Commerce Minister warned Lamy that other issues — Services, Rules and TRIPS-related items that include India's demand for disclosure norms to prevent bio-piracy in genetic materials — cannot be merely left for ministers to raise during the ministerial meeting.
"It is, therefore, essential that a structured process is instituted from now on to develop these issues for ministerial consideration and, where required, decision making," Nath said, suggesting "the agenda for the ministerial meeting has to provide for a discussion on these issues".
On services, an area in which India has several offensive interests, Nath demanded that the proposed Signaling Conference during the ministerial meeting has to be conducted in "negotiation mode with clear deliverables in terms of requests that members have made of each other".
In a strong warning to Lamy, Nath said, "Let me reiterate that if India draws out a blank in regard to its requests [liberal access for short-term services providers under Mode 4, binding of commitments in cross-border trade in services, and strong improvements in domestic regulation provisions], it cannot be expected to show great enthusiasm on the other issues."
He lashed out the director-general for not paying attention to his repeated demands about addressing issues in the Rules negotiations — particularly the controversial zeroing methodology that allows the US and others to inflate anti-dumping margins and fisheries subsidies.

Adam Smith at The Inquiring Mind has also posted on the WTO. He highlights the latest in the escalating dispute between the French President and the EU Trade Commissioner.