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November 16, 1998


Hegde says he will raise US blacklist issue with WTO

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Commerce Minister Ramakrishna Hegde said on Sunday that the publication of the Entities List by the United States administration was against the spirit and principles of the World Trade Organisation and India would strongly take up the issue with WTO and the US administration.

Hegde spoke at the inaugural session of the two-day Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry G-7 trade conference, organised by the ministry of commerce and the FICCI New Delhi.

He said the impact of the publication of the list would be minimal. However, if there were any bottlenecks in the import of goods from the US by Indian companies, India could source it from other countries.

When asked as to whether India would retaliate against the US move, the minister said the Cabinet would decide and work out a plan of action.

However, he said India was more worried about the after-effects of the southeast Asian meltdown. ''We hope that the meltdown will be over by the end of the year,'' he added.

Hegde said the financial crisis that initially engulfed southeast Asia had highlighted the dangers of dependence in short-term capital from external sources. There had been a great deal of criticism in the countries affected by this crisis and even the role of multinational institutions had been questioned.

The minister said the growth in developing countries had come down sharply to 2.3 per cent as against 5.4 per cent the previous year. The worst-affected were the Asian economies except China. The growth in these countries had come down to 0.5 per cent as against three per cent the previous year. We need to ensure that the process of globalisation does not in any way compromise the growth objectives of developing countries, he added. Hegde said the developing countries of the Group of 77 should work together so as to ensure that they obtain just and meaningful benefits under the framework of the WTO and other international fora.

He stressed that the south-south cooperation was more urgent today than ever before because the developing countries around the world were faced with an increasingly hostile economic environment and said best way to operationalise this cooperation was through economic cooperation in which the private sector had a crucial role to play.

While governments provide an enabling environment by framing facilitative policies, the onus of making the best use of this environment would lie with private sector trade and industry of respective countries.

Urging new initiatives for enhancing trade and economic cooperation among developing countries, Hegde said the Global System of Trade Preference could be transformed into a potent instrument to achieve this end and said that given the political will, future rounds of negotiations under the GSTP could lead to significant trade expansion among the developing countries.

The minister also pointed out that the benefits actually accruing to developing countries under the Uruguay round had been far below expectations. Even where additional market access was technically provided by the developed countries, the actual benefits had been very little.

Moreover, efforts were being made to deny even this limited access through measures such as anti-subsidy investigations, anti-dumping and social clause in trade matters.

There is also a demand from some quarters for a new round of negotiations under the WTO even before the previous decisions are implemented. Developing countries will have to view this with caution in the light of experience in the post-Uruguay round. ''We in India are committed to the multilateral trading system. (But) we believe that the WTO, UNCTAD and other organisations should function as effective instruments for serving the interest of the weakest countries of the world,'' Hegde said.


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