Tuesday, August 21, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

PM against fresh round of talks at WTO meet
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today said the incomplete agenda of the Uruguay round should be first completed, before starting any new round of trade negotiations.

Inaugurating an international conference on “Concerns of developing nations in the WTO regime” here, organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Commerce and the Directorate-General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties, Mr Vajpayee, however, said India was prepared to engage constructively, and with an open mind, with the developed countries on all issues relating to global trade.

He pointed out that the WTO was born in an unequal world and the first mandate of the WTO was to help bridge this developmental gap among nations of the world.

“The current inequalities and divisions, reflected in the poor human development indices of developing and least developed nations, are an affront to the collective dignity and ethical sensibilities of humankind, he added.

Despite six years of the existence of the WTO, there are still unmet promises and unfulfilled obligations of the developed nations made in the Uruguay round and these have cast the legitimate concerns of the developing nations into a sharper focus in the run-up to the Doha ministerial conference, he added.

The Prime Minister emphasised that India was not in favour of inclusion of non-trade issues, such as labour and environmental standards, which may furnish scope for misuse as non-tariff barriers.

The other concerns of India, he said were the high tariffs imposed by developed countries on those products in which developing countries have a competitive advantage. For example, India faces unfair tariff and non-tariff barriers in steel, textiles, clothing, and leather products.

On the intellectual property rights regime, the Prime Minister said there should be no misappropriation of the biological and genetic resources, and traditional knowledge of the developing countries. It is necessary, therefore, to mandate that patent applications should reveal the country of origin of biological and genetic resources and traditional knowledge used in the product or process for which the intellectual property right is sought, and furnish a letter of informed consent from their legitimate custodians.

Second, it must be recognised that affordable access to medicines, including latest medicines, for life-threatening diseases for people in developing countries was a universal human right. The governments of these countries had a duty to ensure the availability and affordability for such medicines. The TRIPS agreement should thus enable every member country to take a broad range of measures for protecting and promoting healthcare, both preventive and clinical.

Mr Vajpayee said the objective of “Health for all” was too important to be left either to chance or to future WTO jurisprudence. This is why WTO members should collectively recognise and confirm the considerable degree of flexibility offered by the TRIPS Agreement in this regard.

On the agreement on agriculture at the WTO, Mr Vajpayee said the expectations that the trade-distorting subsidies in agriculture given by developed countries would be reduced, have been belied.

The concerns of the small and marginal farmers in India related to unfair competition from subsidised exports and removal of all unfair barriers on their own farm exports.


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