Farmers interest to be protected at all costs: Nath

New Delhi, Nov 17 | Updated: Nov 18 2005, 05:30am hrs
Union minister of commerce and industry Kamal Nath has assured that the Indian farmers interests will be protected at all cost in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations leading up to the Hong Kong ministerial meet next month.

In the context of some WTO members attempting to link various areas of the negotiations like agriculture and services, the minister said Indias priorities in agriculture were a core area in the negotiations and the government was totally committed to ensuring that farmers interests were safeguarded.

The minister was addressing journalists at the economic editors conference organised jointly by the press information bureau and the finance ministry.

On the issue of inviting foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector, the minister said his ministry was on the look-out for a model which will not replace or displace current employment in the sector. I do not have any such model with me, he said.

In the area of non-agriculture market access (Nama), Mr Nath said Indias applied tariffs were much lower than its bound tariffs. Since the tariff cuts agreed to in the negotiations would be applied on bound rates, there was a wide room for India to negotiate, he said.

On the issue of high transaction cost prevailing in the country, the minister said that the procedures for export-import had been drastically simplified in order to reduce costs.

Under the consolidated application form called ayat-niryat introduced earlier this year, the number of forms have been reduced form 20 to 1, he said.