West Should Not Coerce 3rd World On WTO: Jaitley

New Delhi, May 20: | Updated: May 21 2003, 05:30am hrs
Commerce and industry minister Arun Jaitley has expressed serious concern over the fact that even though the Third World is yet to analyse the full implications of the need for a multilateral agreement on investment the industrialised countries have started initiating moves for discussions on the modalities for negotiations on this very subject. We need to be particularly cautious about these moves that may suggest that modalities can be limited to procedural matters, he has warned.

As per the Doha declaration, negotiations on investment, one of the four Singapore issues, can be started only if there is an explicit consensus among the WTO member-states on the subject during the fifth ministerial to be held in Cancun in September, he has pointed out. Mr Jaitley was addressing the concluding session of the three-day international conference on trade, investment and development here on Tuesday.

Making it clear that New Delhi is against any curtailing of policy space on the issue of investment in the context of the WTO negotiations, he said the developing countries should not be compelled to take decisions in areas of vital importance to them unless they are fully convinced that it is in their interest to do so. This, in my view, is the essential meaning of the principle of explicit consensus, as mandated by the Doha declaration, he said.

Is there a need for a multilateral framework on investment, and is the WTO the appropriate forum for this purpose he asked, and stressed that national treatment is a very sensitive issue both at the pre-establishment and post-establishment stages.

Questioning whether multilateral rules are necessary for promoting foreign investments, particularly when autonomous liberalisation are progressing well in different parts of the Third World, he said such development options should not be foreclosed to the developing world as the developed countries themselves had in the past utilised these options for development.

Expressing appreciation over the participation by senior officials from as many as 16 developing countries at the conference and the collaborative effort of Unctad as a thinktank, Mr Jaitely has emphasised the importance of adequately preparing on the various issues that will come up for discussions at Cancun.

Many developing countries, including India, actively participated in the WTO working group on trade and investment. While this led to better understanding on a number of issues, this greater understanding also heightened their concern about possible implications, particularly where they appeared to constrain developmental policy choices, now or in the future.

He noted the conference has enabled participants to enhance their understanding of the issues from economic, legal and developmental stand points and the need to build on this for future cooperation.