Wests Bid To Block Exports Deplored

New Delhi, November 27: | Updated: Nov 28 2002, 05:30am hrs
India needs to fight attempts made by the developed countries to block exports from the developing world under the garb of social accountability standards. According to senior government officials, flexibilities in the present World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements are being exploited by importing countries to impose environmental norms higher than international standards.

Speaking at the international trade workshop on environmental requirements and market access: addressing developing country concerns organised here on Wednesday, additional secretary, commerce ministry, SN Menon said the social accountability (SA) 8000, the recently announced international standard for management systems primarily dealing with working conditions, could be used by importing countries to limit imports of various products on the alleged violation of the given parameters.

Such barriers to free trade, even if temporary, were of considerable concern and the country needed to address these issues to ensure that its market access was not restricted, Mr Menon said at the workshop jointly organised by the Research and Information System for the developing and non-aligned countries and the Orgnaisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Speaking on the occasion, Planning Commission deputy chairman KC Pant said while the WTO agreements on sanitary and phytosanitary standards and technical barriers to trade intended to provide that standards and regulations were not arbitrarily used for protectionist purposes, now there was considerable discretion available to importing countries to impose their own rules. A number of countries have used minute environmental risk assessments to justify much more stringent norms compared to international standards, thus raising compliance costs for exporters, the deputy chairman said.

Mr Pant said experience of the past few years showed that the technical assistance provided by the developed countries to the least developing countries to upgrade their standards was not enough.