India Pitches For Product-specific Agro Sops

New Delhi, November 28: | Updated: Nov 29 2002, 05:30am hrs
India has submitted its proposal on modalities of agricultural negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) pressing for reduction commitments on agricultural subsidies from developed countries on a product specific basis. Commitments should be made with the aim of reducing all trade distorting support to de minimis level by the end of December 2004, it said.

This is Indias first proposal on agriculture subsequent to the Doha ministerial meet last year which mandated that special and differential treatment for developing countries should be an integral part of all elements of the negotiations on agriculture.

In the area of domestic support, India has pointed out that for significant and meaningful reduction, commitments should be undertaken on a product-specific basis resulting in reduction of support in the amber box and blue box to de minimis level.

Amber and blue boxes subsidies are those which have trade-distorting or production-related effects while de minimis levels of support refer to support which does not exceed 5 per cent of the value of production of the product concerned for developed countries and 10 per cent in case of developing countries.

For the first time, India has also talked about reductions in tariffs by developing countries. It proposed that the reductions should be based on an approach that secures an overall average reduction in bound rates for them which is significantly lower than that by developed countries and with no minimum reduction on each tariff line.

According to agriculture expert from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Dr Abhijit Sen, discussions with states, experts and other stake-holders in the country on Indias stand at the agriculture negotiations had led to the emergence of a distinct position very different from the earlier positions. We are all for increasing market access. We are ready to drop tariffs but would do so only if there is sufficient movement on the other side.

India has also suggested that developing countries should be allowed to increase bound rates for specific agricultural products and be given flexibilities in their domestic policies for agriculture to address their food security and livelihood concerns. It said that for specific agricultural products bound at relatively low levels in earlier negotiations, developing countries should be permitted to raise current bindings to the ceiling bindings for similar products committed during the Uruguay Round.

On the issue of market access, India has asked for substantial reduction in tariff peaks and tariff escalations in products of export interest to developing countries. It has sought improvement in disciplines on tariff rate quota administration and increase in market access for all developing countries.

It suggested extension of the special safeguard mechanism to all developing countries under Article 5 of the agreement on agriculture (AoA). In the area of export competition, India said that export subsidies should be eliminated in an agreed time schedule, except subsidies provided by all developing countries under Article 9.1 (d) and (e) of the AoA which shall remain without reduction commitments.

It added that to elicit an outcome on agriculture to the advantage of all developing countries, the notion of reciprocity in the negotiations will need to be moderated to incorporate the development needs and concerns of developing countries.