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|November 1, 1999||
US delinks India's labour policy from WTO agenda
The proposed World Trade Organisation working group on labour has nothing to do with India's labour policies and only wants to ensure that international trade liberalisation should provide maximum benefits to the working people all around the world, Susan Esserman, deputy US trade representative said today.
She said this in response to a query from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Sudhir Jalan that it seems the US is keen on pushing both labour standards and environment questions onto the WTO agenda, Esserman said the US only wants that workforce the world over should reap as much benefit from the opening up of trade as possible.
At a seminar on 'Indo-US cooperation in WTO'', organised by FICCI in New Delhi, Jalan stated that the joint declaration of US President Bill Clinton and EU Commission president Prodi seems to raise fears that the US too is keen on incorprating labour standards and environmental questions in the WTO agenda.
Clinton and Prodi stated in their joint declaration last month that WTO ministers should agree to establish a working group on trade and labour. The proposed group would have a clearly delineated mandate, operate under the supervision of the General Council and produce a report by ministers, the joint statement had stated.
The globalisation phenomenon, including concerns over job security, has given rise to concerns over the effects of the multilateral trading system on the living standards and employment opportunities of working men and women around the world, according to the statement.
Former FICCI president A S Kasliwal also raised the issue, stating that India has the best labour laws not only among developing countries but also developed nations including the US. However, the huge population of India should also be taken into consideration while incorporating these issues in the WTO, he said.
To this, Esserman said, ''The proposed working group only wants to ensure that working people of the US and that of India along with other parts of the world receive fruits of opening up of international trade.''
Esserman expressed surprise over India's decision that it is not interested in discussing industrial tariff reduction in eight sectors that were taken up by APEC recently.
The final decision on these sectors would be arrived at the Seattle round of negotiations. India had taken the position that as the country does not have much stake in these sectors, it will not discuss the issue.
Refuting this, Esserman said in many of these sectors, including gems and jewellery and chemcials, India has disctinct advantages.
She said there were disagreements between the two countries over quantitative restrictions as the US believes that India is unjustified in imposing high rate of QRs.
However, these differences should not overshadow complementary interests and both the countries should work towards synergy for their mutual benefits.
In the mutually agreeable position, both the countries should take a firm stand on opening up of the infotech sector as they have distinct advantages in them.
She said the United States always stood for developing countries' interests in the WTO and has $ 150 billion deficit with them. ''In the Uruguay round, we took much deeper cuts in tariff rates even when compared to developing countries.'' As much as 70 per cent of the US trade is open for least developing countries.
Jalan said India is in complete agreement with the US view that the subsidies to the agriculture sector distort the market mechanism.
India is hit by the unrealistic and unduly stringent sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures adopted by many countries. Many of the standards are either beyond the technical competence of developing countries or they do not take into account thier special needs, he said.
He also called upon the US to keep multi-lateral agreement on investment out of the WTO regime.
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