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'India must push its agenda at WTO'
Fakir Chand in Bangalore | July 28, 2003 13:28 IST
Even as the mini-ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation gets underway at Montreal in Canada on Monday, 12th Finance Commission chairman C Rangarajan has called upon India to take a pro-active stand in the next round of trade negotiations and articulate its own demands.
The former Reserve Bank of India Governor, who was in Bangalore to participate in the silver jubilee celebrations of the Greater Mysore Chamber of Industry, told rediff.com on Saturday night that the safeguards available in the WTO agreement should be fully utilised to protect the interests of the Indian industry.
"India should make its position clear on the global trading system such as prohibition of unilateral trade action, establishing symmetry between the movement of capital and its people and zero tariffs in industrialised countries on labour intensive exports of developing countries," Rangarajan stated.
With many countries knocking at the doors of the WTO to enter, Rangarajan said the government should ensure that the Indian industry was not victimised by unfair trade practices.
"Since changes in the foreign trade and investment policies have altered the environment in which the Indian industry has to operate, a greater integration of the Indian economy with the rest of the world is unavoidable," Rangarajan declared.
In view of the rapid changes in the world economy due to increased globalisation of trade and commerce, the Indian industry has a right to demand that the macro economic policy is conducive to rapid economic growth.
It is time for Indian industrial units to recognise that the challenges of the new century demand greater action at the enterprise level. They have to learn to swim in the tempestuous waters of competition away from the sheltered waters of the swimming pools.
"India is no longer a country producing goods and services for the domestic market alone. Indian firms have to become global players. They must prepare to face global competition on their own turf as well as in the international markets.
The search for identifying new competitive advantages must begin earnestly. India's ascendancy in IT is only partly by design. Once the potential in this area was discovered, the policy environment became strongly industry-friendly.
Earlier, addressing the captains of the industry, Rangarajan said Indian firms would have to maintain their competitive edge. The advent of IT is modifying the industrial structure as it is creating a huge single market economy in the wake of the ongoing telecom revolution, making products smaller and powerful.
"In the present day environment, the primary focus has to be on the strategy and quality of micro-economic business management and the goal must be to achieve higher levels of efficiency and productivity.
"A new productivity culture must emerge with an organisational structure and incentive system to ramp up production," Rangarajan affirmed.
Calling for a road map for the different segments of the Indian industry, the finance panel chairman said it should chalk out different paths to achieve higher productivity and efficiency that can match the best in the world.
"The industry should know where it has a distinctive comparative advantage as in the case of the Indian software sector. We must also know where the pay-off is highest in terms of employment. Agro-processing industries need a more focussed attention in this regard.
"The road map should address in relation to each major industry or product issues relating to technology upgradation, size and structure of firms and their export potential. While industry specific policies may be indicated, the focus must be on how to improve the functioning of individual enterprises to reach international standards," Rangarajan asserted.
Directing the industry associations and chambers of commerce to prepare vision documents in consultation with industry leaders and experts in the field, Rangarajan said the documents should kindle the spirit of entrepreneurship combined with excellence.
"As an eminent critic put it, the world cannot marginalise India, but India can marginalise itself. We must guard ourselves against this danger."We should not let the old economy become older. Cement, steel and textiles will not vanish. We must rejuvenate and revitalise the old economy with the new economy tools, using IT as an intermediate product," Rangarajan exhorted.