WTO Farm Negotiations To Resume On March 22

New Delhi, Feb 25: | Updated: Feb 26 2004, 05:30am hrs
The crucial agriculture negotiations at the World Trade Organisation will resume next month after a gap of six months following the failure of the Cancun ministerial last September. New Delhi is going to insist on inclusion of special provisions for the developing countries in the framework for negotiations to be discussed at the five-days meet beginning March 22.

Commerce ministry officials told FE that although both the United States and the European Union were keen to have a framework in place by June, the government could give its nod only to those modalities which had provisions to address the sensitivities of the developing countries.

Commenting on the US-EU proposal of having a special list of sensitive products for each country, officials said it was impossible for India to come up with such a list as its an agro-diverse country. It is alright for countries like Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines to come up with such a list as they have only five-six major crops. In India, we grow 33 crops with over 5 million people dependent on each, an official pointed out.

India should be comfortable with all the elements of the framework for agriculture negotiations and it should cover all the sensitive areas, officials said, adding anything short of this would be unacceptable. In the area of agriculture subsidies, officials said the Europeans were giving out signals that they would show some flexibility in export subsidies at the negotiations. India also wants the US to cut down its domestic subsidies substantially. It will be of no use if the US shifts its subsidies from one box to the other. There has to be absolute reduction in domestic subsidies, a ministry official said.

India will oppose the blended tariff cut formula proposed by the US and the EU as it would require the developing countries to bring about steeper reductions in tariffs compared to their developed countries counterparts. The Uruguay Round formula of linear tariff cuts would be acceptable to India as it would result in equitable cuts for all countries, pointed out the official.