Jaitley To Take Up Bilateral, WTO Matters With Bush Administration

New Delhi, May 26: | Updated: May 27 2003, 05:30am hrs
Commerce and industry minister Arun Jaitley will take up bilateral and World Trade Organisation-related issues with the US authorities during his projected visit to America in the first week of June, before the WTO mini-ministerial in Cairo from June 21-22 and the fourth full ministerial in Cancun from September 10-14. The bilateral issues include denial of benefits of the US generalised system of preferences (GSP) scheme for about 850 chemicals and agricultural items. On WTO matters, discussions are likely to centre around agriculture, TRIPs and public health etc. During the four-day visit, Mr Jaitley will be accompanied by commerce secretary Dipak Chatterjee and additional commerce secretary SN Menon.

In fact, during the Indo-US video conference on May 20 and 23, a number of issues pertaining to trade were discussed. This helped India to clear wrong impressions due to lack of information and project a positive image before the US administration. During the conference, the Indian side had raised the issue of not granting GSP concession to 850 items of chemicals and agricultural items, and exports of mangoes to the US.

New Delhi, which posed the issue of exempting social security funding by the US, obtained a clarification on the subject. The US side flagged the issues of reference price mechanism for soyabean oil and subsidy for export of wheat and rice, besides cooperation in bio-technology.

At present, a total of 1,500 Indian export products are eligible for concessions under the GSP which is renewed every two years. It was last renewed in October 2001 when India managed to convince the US to restore GSP for 43 new items.

The US trade representative Robert Zoellick on his visit to India in August 2001 had promised to include 43 items in the scheme and had carried it out. The products include jewellery, carpet and leather items. Their inclusion is of about $540 million for India, officials say.

Officials explain that the the GSP which expired in 2001 was actually renewed in 2002 retrospectively. This helped many Indian and other exports to receive duty refunds from the US administration. The GSP is extended to 140 developing countries including India. The benefit is stopped once a country crosses the threshold limit fixed under the scheme.

As per the latest official data, Indias exports of merchandise and IT/software to the US are estimated to touch $17.7 billion during 2002 against $14.5 billion during 2001.