India rejects US charges of hampering WTO talks
New Delhi: Rejecting the US allegation that developing countries are seeking significant concessions for pushing the global trade deal under WTO, India today retorted that it was rich nations which are hampering the conclusion of Doha Round, stalled since 2001.
"The US and other developed nations are again bringing those issues which were agreed earlier and are also pushing new agendas like trade facilitation, international services agreement and information technology," a senior government official said.
The official was responding to the comments made by US Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman, who is tipped to be the next US Trade Representative.
Froman is reported to have said that "a small group of middle income countries particularly India is standing in the way (of concluding Doha Round of talks) because they want to be 'paid' by developed countries for agreeing to something that is beneficial to the global trading system, especially poorer countries".
Big differences between developing and developed countries have bedevilled the WTO talks, which were launched in 2001 in the Qatari capital with the goal of helping poor countries prosper through enhanced trade.
The negotiations have seen numerous deadlines come and go amid basic disagreement over rich-country farm subsidies and access to developing-country markets for manufactured goods.
"Trade Facilitation (TF) issue is an important element but it is not that important. This is important for those who trade but what about those countries who will not be benefited from this. TF is relevant but it should be balanced with issues which are important for other member countries and LDCs," the official said.
The official said that the US and other rich nations are "cherry picking" instead of moving forward on those matters which are relevant for majority of the WTO members.
The official said that on all the four new areas which the developed countries are pushing, India and other developing countries have stated their views.
"On information technology (IT) and environment goods agreement, India has clearly showed its reluctance. We are against this approach. On trade facilitation, we have not said no, but we are viewing the situations and on international services agreement, we will continue to observe it from a distance and later on take a view," he said.
On these issues, developed countries are going plurilaterally. In other words, the trade benefits arising out of such an agreement will be shared only by signatories.
The plurilateral agreement on these issues that the US and EU seem to be eager to ink would exclude the developing and the least developed countries, the official said.
He also said that rich nations are again bringing the issue of sectorals over which there are huge differences.
"IT is a sectoral agreement, environmental good will be a sectoral agreement. So, effectively what they are doing is they are cherry picking sectors where the developed world is strong and getting you to agree to those elements because if you do not agree today and if you decided to join the agreement tomorrow there will be a cost to be paid," he added.
Explaining how rich nations are pushing their own agendas on poor and developing economies, he said: "Under the IT agreement, they have included 357 products out of which 50 items belong to non-IT category, 136 are dual use products and on 50, our industry have expressed serious sensitivities."
Similarly, he said on trade facilitation issue, the rich nations are asking for demands which are not relevant.
"In services, there are some areas where the US and EU are in a much more better condition, where they can have control in these resources for example positioning of servers. So the whole effort is to freeze the gains," the official added.