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India not to budge on investment
Mamata Singh in New Delhi | September 09, 2003 11:48 IST
India will oppose any agreement on the issue of trade and investment, but maintain a flexible stance on trade facilitation and transparency in government procurement at the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation in Cancun.
These three issues, along with competition policy, comprise the contentious 'Singapore issues'.
India's argument at the ministerial would be that investment, which was a non-trade topic, should not be discussed at the WTO, which was essentially a forum for trade-related issues, official sources said.
Indian negotiators going to Mexico for the ministerial that starts on Wednesday have also been directed to consider an agreement on competition policy only if it is restricted to cartels and is based on a peer review mechanism. They have been told not to accept a binding agreement on competition policy.
There is considerable speculation over whether the Singapore issues will come up for consideration at Cancun. Developed countries, especially the European Commission, are keen on it.
Though India has been stoutly opposing any move to expand the WTO agenda to include these issues at Cancun, it softened its stand after the US agreed to unbundle the four issues.
"India's stand has been that negotiations on the issues should commence only after explicit consensus on modalities among all members of the WTO and that each of these four issues should be considered separately and not be covered under a single set of modalities," an official source said.
The Indian team is also likely to push for the freedom to sign or to keep out of any agreement on each of the issues if the agreements are plurilateral ones.
While the initial assessment was that the talks would focus on agriculture, on which the US and the EC had opposing views, the joint paper on agriculture submitted by the two last month sought to deflect attention from subsidies and to focus on tariff cuts.
India and a group of 20 developing countries have submitted their own paper on agriculture, which is by and large supported by the Cairns group.
On agriculture, India will oppose subsidies in developed countries, favour a Uruguay Round-type formula for tariff reduction, push for exemptions from tariff reduction in case of certain sensitive products and ask for the inclusion of livelihood concerns in the discussions.
On non-agricultural market access also, India will push for a formula, which will allow for adequate protection to domestic products by going in for tariff binding at appropriate levels.
Flexibility to retain a few domestically-sensitive tariff lines as unbound will also be sought.