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|September 16, 1999||
India to press for cuts in agri subsidies at WTO meet
India will highlight huge agricultural subsidies being given by developed countries at the ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation, Commerce Secretary P P Prabhu said in New Delhi today.
''Subsidies distort free global trade and we will put pressure, especially on the European Union, to reduce their level in the agriculture sector,'' he said.
India will protect its national interests and also push for greater market access in developed countries. Prabhu said many non-trade issues like labour standards are being talked about but India will not succumb to such pressures.
He was addressing delegates gathered for a seminar on ''WTO: Indian Industry's Agenda for the New Millennium'', organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry.
The ministerial conference, representing the highest decision making body of the WTO, will be held from November 30 to December 3 at Seattle in Washington, the United States.
It is expected that the Seatlle round of talks will launch a new round of multilateral trade negotiations with an agenda much wider than already mandated. There are numerous proposals by WTO members on the table, articulating their preference for the future direction of the WTO trading order.
''There are several pending issues to be discussed but developed countries are trying to bring in new issues,'' Prabhu said. He called for sector-wise examination to study implications of industrial tariffs reduction before the negotiating agenda.
Special Secretary (WTO) at the commerce ministry, N N Khanna, said India has been removing quantitative restrictions at an accelerated pace in the past two years.
He said industrial tariffs have been negotiated comprehensively in the past but now the Indian side will see that actual rate of protection is put on agenda. Over-proliferation of anti-dumping instruments can hurt trade everywhere but its basis should not be touched.
Khanna appreciated compatability of views emerging in the Indian industry on sectoral issues. He added that external trade liberalisation must be matched with internal liberalisation.
CII president Rahul Bajaj called upon the government for adopting a tough stand to protect national interests and said certain susidies in developed countries are non-activable. ''The government must give up the Hindu way of negotiating as 99 per cent of Indian industry want the country to remain a member of the WTO.''
Bajaj also called for more internal liberalisation, better infrastructure within the country and availability of low-cost capital to beat global competition. He said India is concerned about issues like child labour and environment but developed countries use them as non-tariff barriers.
Bajaj said the situation calls for an objective assessment of the issues facing developing nations and adoption of a collective position to ensure increased market access.
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