While Indias stand, till now, has been to oppose a multilateral competition policy, trade experts feel that India should have a more open approach and bargain for a policy which would suit its needs and help it fight international cartels.
The Doha ministerial declaration had stated that negotiations on competition policy would take place after the fifth session of the ministerial conference in September 2003 on the basis of an explicit consensus on the modalities of negotiations.
In earlier working group meetings, a number of developed countries had expressed views that adherence to the fundamental WTO principles of national treatment, most-favoured-nation treatment and transparency wascentral to the effective administration of competition law and policy.
On the other hand, developing countries had expressed concern that incorporation of core principles, particularly non-discrimination, in a multilateral framework on competition policy could encroach upon or constrain their ability to implement pro-development industrial or social policies.
Speaking to FE, CUTS Centre for International Trade Economics & Environment secretary-general Pradeep S Mehta said that India should give consent to a multilateral competition policy subject to a number of exceptions and exemptions. In an increasingly globalising world, we cannot pretend that we can do without a multilateral competition policy. However, we should liberalise at our own pace.
Mr Mehta said that there was no need for India to get into a full fledged agreement at once. Instead, it could liberalise sector by sector with sufficient exception and exemption clauses to take care of its domestic concerns. Citing an example, he said that the country could take up issues like its small scale reservation system during negotiations and insist on continuing it for a particular time period.
According to trade expert Sharad Bhansali from the Strategic Law Group, since a competition policy would ensure that hard core cartels were not allowed to exploit small business establishments, it would help Indian companies. As India does not have any big cartels, a policy restricting cartels would go to its advantage.
He added that the country has to take precautions to ensure that a multilateral policy did not disturb the local complexion of the industry. We should have an in-built safeguard mechanism to protect our industry.
Mr Mehta added that India should not shy away from offering national treatment to foreign investors. We should not forget that WTO is all about non-discrimination.