The Government of India will host a major meeting of WTO Trade Ministers in New Delhi from 3-4 September 2009. Trade Ministers representing the major groupings in the WTO (only some 35 countries have been invited) and WTO Chief Pascal Lamy will attend the closed door meeting. Commerce Minister Anand Sharma anticipates that the meeting will re-energise the stalled Doha Round and help build momentum towards the 7th WTO Ministerial in Geneva in December 2009.
Please find pasted below and attached an open letter to the UPA Government that spells out the dangers of reviving the Doha talks at a time when the country is dealing with an agrarian and financial crisis coupled with huge job losses in the industrial sector.
Thousands of agriculture and labour activists are expected to mobilise in Delhi on September 3 and march to the Parliament to oppose the WTO talks.
Best regards, Afsar Jafri
Open letter to UPA on WTO Trade Ministers Meeting in Delhi
We believe that the Government of India's attempt to 're-energize' the stalled WTO talks is flawed and misguided. The proposed WTO Doha deal would only benefit the corporate interests of developed countries such as the USA and the EU and drastically eliminate our policy space to protect our real economy. By hosting a meeting of 35 Trade Ministers representing key WTO members and their coalitions (September 3-4 2009 in New Delhi), the Government hopes to move the Doha Round of trade negotiations towards conclusion no later than next year. The Government's sudden proactive stance on the Doha deal will have far-reaching, irreversible and adverse consequences for the country's economy and polity. It will severely increase the vulnerability of our agriculture sector to the vagaries of global trade, impacting our food security and over two-thirds of our population dependent on it. Moreover, it will increase the dependency of India's industrial economy on advanced countries and exacerbate the impacts of the agrarian and financial crises at home.
India stands to lose on all key areas under negotiation – agriculture, fisheries, industrial tariffs, services and intellectual property. The EU and USA will not reduce their actual agricultural subsidies or accept demands for movement in labour in sectors such as services. In fact, the US's Farm Act 2008 actually increases payouts to US farm lobbies. Rather than rectifying past imbalances of the trade regime, the USA and the EU are demanding that countries such as India enforce further cuts in agriculture, drastically reduce industrial tariffs and provide market access in key services sectors such as retail, construction and liberalise those such as banking and insurance---leading to further financial crises, increased costs and loss of both competitiveness and jobs.
The WTO proposals severely dilute provisions to protect our agriculture. They drastically limit the number of crops that can be exempt from tariff reductions and propose a highly ineffective mechanism to prevent import surges. Finally, the tariff reductions in the non-agriculture negotiations which include fisheries, other natural resources and industrial products will actually force us to cut our actual tariffs in many instances and lower our maximum allowed tariffs to just above current rates. And other onerous demands such as an "anti-concentration clause" and "sectorals" will have enormous impacts on our organised and unorganised sectors and the future of our manufacturing and fisheries sectors. In contrast rich countries will commit to much lower reductions in their duties and do nothing to their non-tariff barriers.
Our own economy has endured massive job-losses in export-led sectors due to the financial crisis and our trade deficit continues to rise. The government's intention is to increase spending to manage the crisis, as well as procure basic food security and livelihoods for the "aam admi." Yet, the government has failed to address tariff revenue losses that will result from an intensely liberalized regime through both the WTO and the over 19 FTAs that we are negotiating.
The averments of the Ministry of Commerce are well beyond the manifesto commitments on the WTO of the various parties in the UPA Government. Rather than "re-energizing" talks on a flawed framework, the government must go back and rewrite and re-strengthen its position on the protection of millions of our workers and farmers by safeguarding our agriculture and industries. India's further engagement should not only be transparent but proactive in consulting those most affected by these agreements.
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