Shri Sharma commended Mr. Azevedo on his efforts to inject a new momentum into the discussions which has led to some progress and an intensification of discussions in recent weeks.
With less than 10 weeks remaining before the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the WTO in December 2013, Shri Sharma and Mr. Azevedo had a detailed discussion on the issues being negotiated for an outcome in the Bali Conference.
Shri Sharma assured Mr. Azevedo that India would remain fully engaged with all key stakeholders from the developed and developing countries to find a fair and balanced outcome in Bali.
Shri Sharma stressed that the centrality of multilateral processes must be retained. All Members need to work together to strengthen the WTO as an institution. Though Bali is not the end of the road, it is to be seen as a stepping stone to conclusion of the Doha Round. The success of this round is critical for multilateralism.
While recognising the importance of Trade Facilitation (TF) and upgrading infrastructure at border, ports and custom procedures for giving a boost to exports, Shri Sharma underscored the need for addressing the concerns of food security which have been outlined in a proposal presented by G-33 countries. He observed that food security is the most fundamental of human needs and the lack of it can have profound ramifications as seen during the food price volatility and crises of recent years.
A solution to the G-33 proposal would be an important contribution by the WTO towards addressing the challenges of food security in developing countries, he said. He pointed out that public stockholding programmes are widely used to ensure food security in many developing countries where agriculture is largely rainfed. Updating of the rules would greatly help these countries in carrying out such operations without defaulting on their commitments.
Shri Sharma urged Mr. Azevedo to persuade all parties to discuss the food security proposal constructively. He observed that developing countries are finding themselves hamstrung by the existing rules in running their food stockholding and domestic food aid programmes. The developed world too had market price support programmes and was able to move away from market price support – though not fully even now – because of their deep pockets. This is not possible for developing countries. It is important for developing countries to be able to guarantee some minimum returns to their poor farmers so that they are able to produce enough for themselves and for domestic food security.
Shri Sharma expressed satisfaction at the intensification of discussion on the G33 proposal but also voiced his concern about the hardening of positions of some Members who are now proposing stringent conditions to be satisfied before an interim mechanism can be availed of. These conditions will make it difficult, if not impossible, to use.
On Trade Facilitation Shri Sharma emphasised that it is important to honour the provisions of the mandate relating to special and differential treatment of developing countries including LDCs and support & assistance to such countries.
Shri Sharma and Mr. Azevedo agreed that a lopsided outcome of the Doha Round is not in anyone’s interest. It is up to all of us to participate actively in the negotiations in order to arrive at that balance.
Shri Sharma also referred to the LDC issues and observed that these merit urgent and active attention, so that we can move some steps closer to their fuller integration into international trade. Without this, any early harvest package would be incomplete and unacceptable.
India is firmly with the LDCs on their proposals. India has already implemented Duty Free Quota Free market access for LDCs. A proposal to increase coverage of items under duty free List to around 97% ( from 85% at present) of the total tariff lines at 6 digit level and to further liberalize the Rules of Origin is under the active consideration of the Government of India.
Shri Sharma assured the DG of India’s cooperation in striving to achieve a balanced outcome at Bali and an early resolution of remaining issues in the DDA post-Bali.
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