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India says no to WTO agreement on IT, environment

New Delhi: India will not accept any agreement on IT and environmental goods which is being proposed by a group of developed nations at WTO, as it would adversely impact the domestic industry, a top official said.

Rich nations, including the US, want India and other emerging economies to be part of the four major sectoral pacts - trade facilitation (TF), information technology (IT), environmental goods and international services agreement.

"On IT and environmental goods agreement, India has clearly showed its reluctance. We are against this approach. On TF, we have not said no, but we are viewing the situations and on international services agreement, we will continue to observe it from a distance and later on take a view," the official said.

Reuters

On these four matters, developed countries wants to go plurilaterally. In other words, the trade benefits arising out of such an agreement will be shared only by signatories.

The plurilateral agreement on these issues that the US and Europe seem to be eager to ink would exclude the interests of developing and the least developed countries, the official added.

The official also said that the developed economies instead of focusing on the issues of Doha Round, they want to sign agreements which would benefit more to them instead of developing and least developed nations.

"IT is a sectoral agreement, environmental good will be a sectoral agreement. So, effectively what they are doing is they are cherry picking sectors where the developed world is strong and getting you to agree to those elements because if you do not agree today and if you decide to join the agreement tomorrow there will be a cost to be paid," the official added.

Explaining how rich nations are pushing their own agendas on poor and developing economies, he said that under the IT agreement, they want to include 357 products out of which 50 items belong to non-IT category like washing machines, refrigerators and window AC.

Similarly 136 are dual use products in which developed countries have suggested to eliminate duties. There are another 50 items on which domestic industry has expressed serious sensitivities.

"One of the objectives of (developed world) all these four proposals is to cash them and then forget Doha and that is what exactly we do not want to happen. That is one the main reason why we are acting soberly and with so much of caution ... once you harvest these agreements, there is nothing left in Doha for countries like the US," he said.

Big differences between developing and developed countries have bedevilled the WTO talks, which were launched in 2001 in the Qatari capital with the goal of helping poor countries prosper through enhanced trade.

India has also rejected the US allegation that developing countries are seeking significant concessions for pushing the global trade deal under WTO. Rich nations are hampering the conclusion of Doha Round,
stalled since 2001, the official added.

"The US and other developed nations are again bringing those issues which were agreed earlier and are also pushing new agendas like trade facilitation, international services agreement and information technology," the official said.

The official was responding to the comments made by US Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman, who is tipped to be the next US Trade Representative.

Froman is reported to have said that "a small group of middle income countries particularly India is standing in the way (of concluding Doha Round of talks) because they want to be 'paid' by developed countries for agreeing to something that is beneficial to the global trading system, especially poorer countries".

The negotiations have seen numerous deadlines come and go amid basic disagreement over rich-country farm subsidies and access to developing-country markets for manufactured goods.

PTI

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