M A I N   N E W S

India dares big WTO players
* Forms 8-nation group   * Protests outside venue

South Korean farmers participate in an anti-WTO protest
South Korean farmers participate in an anti-WTO protest at Victoria Park in Hong Kong on Tuesday. — Reuters photo

Hong Kong, December 13
Mounting pressure on developed countries, India today formed a core group with seven other developing countries on industrial tariffs to ensure that the principle of “less than full reciprocity” is fully reflected in any deal at the WTO meeting, which kicked off today.

“We want our concerns to be taken on board. Market access is not an issue of tariffs alone. Market access for India means elimination of tariff peaks and tariff escalation in developed-country markets as also end of abuse of anti-dumping laws and removal of non-tariff barriers used to block goods from developing nations,” Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said.

Criticising the EU proposal on Non-Agriculture Market Access, Mr Nath said the formula in itself was not important but what it actually translated into in real terms.

The group, which is co-chaired by India and South Africa, includes Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Namibia, Venezuela and Egypt with more expected to join, he said.

The alliance had also written to chairman of the Sixth Ministerial Conference John Tsang pointing out that the draft text had not adequately reflected the three elements of “less than full reciprocity, special and differential treatment and non-tariff barriers,” he added.

“Less than full reciprocity” means developing countries would have proportionately lower reduction commitments than developed nations like the US and the EU.

“While developing countries are prepared to make a contribution to the NAMA negotiations, we find the developed countries reluctant to offer their fair share,” the letter said. The outcome on industrial goods must be calibrated with the ambition achieved in other market access negotiations, it added.

Mr Nath said developed countries must address the issue of tariff peaks, tariff escalations, abuse of anti-dumping instruments and non-tariff barriers.

Otherwise, disproportionate demands made by developed countries would lead to imbalanced outcome and jeopardise the development dimension of the Doha round, he said.

India had, along with Argentina and Brazil, tabled a tariff-reduction formula at the WTO which seeks to have multiple coefficients, one for developed countries and others based on tariff averages in developing countries.

The EU and the US are now agreeable on the Swiss reduction formula with two coefficients - one for developed and other for developing countries.

A draft deal on slashing rich nations farm tariffs must be struck by April next year if a global pact to break down trade barriers is to be concluded in time, the Brazil-led G-20 group of developing countries said today. The group also called on ministers at this week’s WTO meeting in Hong Kong to agree to an “immediate standstill” on the use of farm export subsidies and a date for their elimination.

Meanwhile, about 20 persons raised slogans and waved signs hostile to the WTO as its head Pascal Lamy addressed the opening session here today of a six-day ministerial conference.

Elsewhere, several protesters, including Indians, struck the security forces with bamboo sticks and tried to ram through a police roadblock today as the World Trade Organisation began its meeting in Hong Kong.

The riot police with helmets and shields fended off the protesters with pepper spray a few blocks away from the WTO’s meeting venue near downtown Hong Kong. The scuffle lasted about half-an-hour and died down as police reinforcements arrived.

It wasn’t immediately clear if there were any injuries, but the pepper spray left several demonstrators staggering in pain and rubbing their eyes as other protesters poured bottled water on their faces.

The protesters, who were mainly South Koreans and also included Japanese, Indian, Filipino and Brazilian farmers, also burned a coffin that was used as a protest prop during a street march that began earlier in the afternoon.

The farmers fear that if their domestic agricultural markets are opened up under a new WTO treaty, they would not be able to compete, and possibly lose their livelihood and land. — AgenciesBack

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