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Nath cautions against attempt to move Doha Round talks in WTO

May '07
Shri Kamal Nath, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, has cautioned against attempts to move the current Doha Round negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) from an unconditional delivery of the development dimension of the Round to conditionalities which would hinder such an outcome.

Delivering a Special Address at the University of Oxford (University College) last evening, the Minister deplored that although development was enunciated as the centrality of the Round, “some are seeking to weave it in a mesh of ifs and buts”.

Highlighting India's concerns in agriculture, Shri Kamal Nath strongly emphasised the need for a safety net to protect the interests of farmers in developing countries like India. “Even the window of Special Products and the Special Safeguard Mechanism that was devised in the July Framework as a means of safeguarding livelihood security and rural development needs – even this is being sought to be tied up in knots so as to render it ineffective.”

“Low-income or resource-poor rural households have little ability to absorb price fluctuations and a flood of subsidized imports of agricultural products. If developing country governments are not able to provide a safety net – a safety net for livelihoods, mind you, not for corporate profits – then it would be the surest recipe for social disaster and instability”, he said.

Referring to concerns on industrial tariffs, Shri Kamal Nath warned that unrestrained tariff liberalisation can have disastrous effects on a country's industrial economy. “The former Trade Minister of Zambia told me that his country actually experienced de-industrialisation after its membership of the WTO."

"The harsh truth is that the most vulnerable in any re-adjustment are women and artisans, small scale industries run by local entrepreneurs and those that are located in geographically disadvantaged pockets of the country. Flexibilities in the application of a NAMA formula remain an inviolable essential to ensure balanced regional and sectoral development”, he stressed.

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