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Shri Nath responds on revised Agriculture & NAMA texts

23
May '08
Speaking to the media from Auckland, New Zealand, Shri Kamal Nath, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, responded briefly to the recently issued revised Agriculture and NAMA texts of the Doha Round.

Agriculture:
A major goal of the Round was to correct the fundamental structural flaws in global agricultural trade perpetuated through developed countries' lavish subsidies to their farmers.

Shri Nath observed that the Doha Round was an opportunity to altogether eliminate Overall Trade Distorting Domestic Support (OTDS).

“Instead, all of us at the Hong Kong Ministerial settled for steep and effective cuts in OTDS. Even this goal now seems to be vanishing”.

The Minister said that for the US, the lowest number in the text ($ 13 billion) was nearly double the current applied levels of domestic support. “Where is the need for 100% headroom as a cushion”? the Minister queried.

Reacting to the Chair's proposals on Special Products, Shri Nath questioned why the lower cap number of total Special Products had been arbitrarily reduced from 12 to 8 per cent. In April 2008, the US and a few other countries had made such a proposal but this had enjoyed no support from any country other than the proposers. “Then why the change? And, that too at this stage?”.

While there seemed to be an attempt to raise the level of ambition on this core concern of developing countries, there was no concurrent movement either in reducing Overall Trade Distorting Domestic Support or the percentage of Sensitive Products, on which the proposals have remained frozen since July 2007. This was disconcerting.

Another major area of concern in agriculture mentioned by Shri Nath was the issue of Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM).

“The draft proposals on SSM, including the absurdly low number of products for which the SSM could be invoked during a year, the threshold levels for the price and volume triggers and the cross-check between the two independent triggers, are even more stringent than proposals for the Special Safeguards, which are going to be used primarily by developed countries”, Shri Nath remarked.

The Minister observed that the SSM proposals were completely out of step with ground realities in the developing world and there was no way the developing countries could accept them in their present form.


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