US Tariff Proposal Ambitious: India

New Delhi, November 29: | Updated: Nov 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
India has said that the US proposal submitted to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) suggesting removal of tariffs on all consumer and industrial goods by 2015 was drastic and highly ambitious.

Commerce secretary Dipak Chatterjee said India would officially articulate its response in its proposal on modalities for negotiations on non-agricultural products which would be submitted to the WTO by the end of the year.

Speaking to reporters after a round-table on WTO modalities organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) on Friday, Mr Chatterjee said it was not just India, but other developed countries including the European Union, who had termed the US proposal as ambitious.

The secretary added that the US proposal did not adhere to the mandate agreed to in the declaration of the ministerial meet in Doha.

The WTO director general Supachai Panitchpakdi too has criticised the US plan stating it was against the interests of the developing countries. He added the trade organisations main concerns were tariff peaks and tariff escalations, which had to be addressed.

The proposal submitted by the US earlier this week talks about elimination of all tariffs in two phases. In the first phase ending 2010, all tariffs which are 5 per cent or less and of highly traded goods are proposed to be eliminated while tariffs of other commodities would go by the end of second phase in 2015.

The EU and Japan too have submitted their proposals suggesting a compressed scheme of tariff reduction which calls for sharp reduction in high tariffs and lesser reduction in lower tariffs. In a presentation to the industry, commerce joint secretary VS Seshadari said the proposal would be more compressing for developing countries than developed countries as they would have to bring about sharper cuts in their tariffs.

The developed countries are not only making proposals unsuitable for developing countries, the US has actually tried to pit least developed countries against their developing counterparts.

Commerce ministry officials said the US trade representative Robert Zoellick had written to African countries asking them to oppose the developing countries attempt to lower tariffs in the developed market as it would reduce the preferential margin which they currently enjoyed.

Spelling out Indias approach on the ongoing negotiations, the commerce ministry said it would emphasise the need for special and differential treatment and less than full reciprocity.

The ministry said India would try to retain its flexibility to keep highly sensitive tariff lines unbound.