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Fourth Meeting

Suspension of Doha Talks ? Reasons, Possible After Effects & Implications for India
New Delhi, India, August 21, 2006

The fourth meeting of PARFORE was organised in New Delhi, to discuss issues related to Doha Round of trade negotiations. ?Suspension of Doha Talks ? Reasons, Possible After effects & Implications for India? was the specific topic for discussion.

Among the noted Parliamentarians present in the meeting were Yashwant Sinha, Suresh Prabhu, Dr P C Alexander and Sharad Joshi. The participants were unanimous that the Government should put in place a well-informed structure of Parliamentarians to influence India?s position vis-?vis key issues under negotiations at various international fora. The MPs further suggested that the Government should try to gather the views and opinions expressed in the Parliament before engaging itself into multilateral trade negotiations. For this purpose, a core team of informed MPs cutting across political parties should be formulated to advise the Government on the steps and issues involved in the negotiations.

The Parliamentarians felt that the suspension of Doha Round of negotiations was not a victory for India. It was, in fact, a set back on multilateralism as most of the countries would now go for bilateral agreements.

Endorsing the views expressed by the other Parliamentarians, Yashwant Sinha, said that India must not let Doha Round fail completely. ?Let Doha Round come to some conclusion by next year else it will have a dampening effect on all international negotiations. We should leave agriculture aside for the time being and negotiate on other issues, including services, which contributes more than 50 percent to our gross domestic product (GDP)?, Sinha said.

Sounding pessimist, Dr P C Alexander said that the developing nations must realise that we would not get anything from the developed world just because development agenda was on the WTO table.

?Stand of the US in multilateral trade negotiations has always been obstinate. We need to take the subsidy item more seriously than we have done till now. Agriculture subsidy by US on commodities and European Union (EU) on dairy and milk products must be given top priority in all future meetings?, Alexander observed.

Citing the example of cotton subsidy in US, Dr Alexander said that subsidy on cotton in US was almost equal to the price of cotton and this was the reason that the American farmers could undersell and Indian farmers have suffered badly because of cheap import of cotton.

Sharad Joshi said that it was in India?s interest that it does not allow the talks to collapse. He suggested that India should use the Marakesh Agreement to make US and EU bring down subsidies.

In his address, Pradeep S Mehta suggested setting up of an International Trade Department in the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. Earlier, this was suggested by the Standing Committee on Commerce headed by Murli Manohar Joshi though not much had happened on the recommendation. Mehta said that India was entering into a large number of non-multilateral agreements like free trade agreement (FTA) with Sri Lanka, Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with Singapore, including another FTA with Thailand, which is in progress. But the negotiating capacity in the area of trade was limited with the Trade Policy Division of Ministry of Commerce having insufficient staff strength in the face of huge load of work to handle.

 

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