India Sold Out To West At WTO: Pawar

Original Publication Date: 
22 Agosto, 2004

The Commerce Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry differ on India's negotiations at the recent WTO meet. The Agriculture Ministry has prepared a note for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that says the WTO framework agreement that Commerce Minister Kamal Nath signed in Geneva last month was a sell-out.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar received a copy of the agreement recently. His ministry's scrutiny of the document has revealed that India had conceded much more than it got. While the US and the EU made specific gains, 'concessions' for India were still to be negotiated.

The agreement said the developed countries had agreed to eliminate all forms of export subsidies by an 'end date', which was not defined. The Agriculture Ministry's contention is that in the absence of any 'finality', the developed countries' commitments were meaningless.

Developed countries give subsidies of hundreds of billions of dollars every year to their farmers, resulting in artificially low prices for their agricultural exports.

The 'flexibility' given to India to continue with its export subsidies for a longer period is of no use because Indian exports and export subsidies are negligible.

While there is no firm commitment from developed countries on cutting export subsidies, India has agreed to cut its import tariffs. The Commerce Ministry is happy that India is safe, since Indian tariffs are quite high. But the Agriculture Ministry's worry is that without spelling out the 'minimum' cuts, the agreement can be used to make India yield more.

India has, thus, agreed to open its border for US agricultural products, while the US has not said when its export subsidies will be taken out.

Instead of bargaining for concrete concessions, India has even agreed to US demands to shift some of its trade-distorting subsidies to the Blue Box route. The Blue Box subsidies give US farmers incentives to keep their production within limits. While closing subsidies through one route, the US has got approval to continue them through another route. India gets nothing in the deal.

Rich nations agreed they would cut domestic support to their farmers by 20 per cent 'in the very first year itself'. Developing countries like India have been told they need not reduce the minimum support price to their 'resource-poor' farmers.

This meant nothing, according to the Agriculture Ministry, because nearly all of the support given in India is for poor farmers. During negotiations, India can find it difficult in 'proving' how many of its farmers were poor.

Nath said India was eligible to designate 'an appropriate number of products as special products, based on the country's food and livelihood security'. India could use the concession to put restrictions on the entry of such products. Pawar is telling the PM that without 'specifying' the special products, the concession did not mean much