India Denounces While Brussels Defends Protectionist Policies

New Delhi, January 21: | Updated: Jan 22 2003, 05:30am hrs
While Brussels on Tuesday maintained that the measures adopted under the sanitary and phyto-sanitary agreement were not a protectionist tool to prohibit Indian exports, New Delhi countered the assertion by pinpointing the danger of discriminatory action under this and the technical barriers to trade agreements. The occasion was a round table on doing business with the EU, organised in Delhi by the Federation of Indian export organisations (Fieo). It also saw senior government officials questioning the several anti-dumping and countervailing duty measures initiated by Brussels from time to time on Indian products, notably cotton bed linen. EU ambassador and head of the delegation of the European Commission Michel Caillouet told Fieo members that EU as the largest importer as also largest agricultural importer from the Third World had no intention to prohibit Indian exports. The reason why we are very careful about food standards is because our civil society demands it, he pointed out.

Noting this, R. Srinivasan, advisor to the commerce ministry, sought to drive home the point that EU had standards which were sometimes higher than those prevailing globally, specially in regard to environment. There is non-homogeneity of standards and regulations across the EU countries, he said. He said he could not comprehend the situation when the EU was expanded by addition of 10 more countries by 2004-06.

While the EU ambassador stated that India was the second beneficiary of EU scheme of generalised system of preferences (GSP), Mr Srinivasan referred to the preferential treatment meted out to Pakistan under the GSP for export of textiles which he stressed had affected India adversely.

Mr Caillouet went on to say that India had initiated more anti-dumping actions against the EU than the EU against this country. On the other hand, Mr Srinivsan pointed out that while only 0.7 per cent of EUs global imports were subjected to anti-dumping and countervailing measures, this figure in relation to Indias exports to EU stood at 3 per cent. Some of the anti-dumping actions suffered from serious procedural and technical flaws in violation of relevant WTO norms as in the case of bed linen, he further stated.

While the anti-dumping issue was a matter of concern for both the EU and India, Mr Caillouet felt that the solution had to be found in the Doha development agenda and its success at the fifth ministerial conference in Cancun (Mexico) in September would give a big push to international trade flows.

Mr Srinivasan also raised Indias serious concern over EUs policies in the farm sector. Market distortions in the form of large agricultural subsidies, tariff escalations and peaks, quotas (for sugar) had restricted market access in this area, he added.

Earlier, Fieo president Rafeeque Ahmed stated that between 1997 and 2001, India faced 31 anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations from the EU. The actions included traditional exports such as bed linen, besides flat rolled products, hot rolled flat products, polyester staple fibre etc.