20 July :On the eve of the crucial WTO meeting of key trade ministers in Geneva, India said level of cuts in agricultural subsidies and industrial tariffs may be negotiated beyond the range proposed in the draft texts if there is consensus among the rich and developing nations.
"There are numbers in the text and whether we can go beyond is something that will be negotiated. It is possible on a few isolated cases that we may even go beyond numbers if there is a consensus among ministers," Commerce Secretary Gopal Pillai said after the meeting of the G-33, the agriculture alliance of the developing countries.
He said if developed countries like the US go outside the range (as given in the agriculture and Non-Agricultural Market Access texts circulated in the WTO) for cutting farm and industrial tariffs, "then anybody else can also go outside the numbers".
The World Trade Organisation has convened a five-day mini Ministerial Meeting beginning July 21 to infuse urgency into the long-running Doha trade talks.
"We should know the vision tour of the 30-odd trade ministers for the entire agriculture and NAMA by Monday evening," Pillai said.
India will also present its list of offers and demands for market access in services at the WTO Signalling Conference scheduled on 24th July.
The 30 nations participating in the meeting would also submit their list of five offers and demands in the area of services at the Signalling Conference.
Services Chair Ambassador Fernando de Mateo of Mexico is also expected to put out a text on services after the ministers’ conference.
He has circulated a services report on 17th July.
"At the moment there is nothing (in services). They are just good intentions," Pillai said.
India, which has a stronghold in services, is seeking greater market for its engineering, R&D, healthcare, construction and computer related services.
"Unless there are binding commitments in services, there would be no Doha deal," Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath has said.
While India is ready to further signal new sub-sectors and make improvements in sub-sectors already offered, these signals are conditional to the developed countries addressing its interest in Mode 4 (Movement of Service Persons/Professionals) and Mode 1 (Cross-Border Supply).
Meanwhile, Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said issues like Special Products (the number of agricultural products that would take no tariff cuts) as well as making the Special Safeguard Mechanism simple and operational still need to be negotiated.
"This is a development round and if we do not get what we know are out bottom lines in SP and SSMs then it is not a development round," she said.
Emphasising that in the current round, flexibility is the key word, she said, "It is not fair to ask the developing countries to be flexible. The developed countries also have to flexible and actually should be more forthcoming because this is a development round".
She said protecting the livelihood of millions of farmers in the developing countries is more crucial in the backdrop of economic slowdown in several countries.
"Our bottom lines will not change. Ensuring the livelihood of millions of farmers is the key and ensuring that we have the right level of safeguard and protection from surge of imports and price decline especially in today’s situation of uncertainty becomes even more imperative," she said.
Venezuela’s Minister for Light Industries and Trade William Contreras said while the developing countries are satisfying the needs for liberalising world trade by making cuts, the developed nations are not.
At its coordination meeting here, the G-33 alliance, of which India, Indonesia and Venezuela are members, re-emphasised its "ever-strenghtening" unity and solidarity .
"We are approaching a critical and decisive juncture in the Doha Negotiations in the midst of the deepening global food crisis posing a severe threat to peace and stability around the world," the G-33 said.
It said the developing countries were the most affected and livelihood concerns of their poor farmers and vulnerable people have assumed "alarming proportions than ever before". Courtsey DD NEWS