Cancun, Sept. 12: The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) found itself unwittingly embroiled in controversy as the European Union tried to prise the cracks in India’s position on the contentious issue of investment — one of the four so-called Singapore issues that developing nations have refused to discuss here.
The controversy had erupted on Wednesday when EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy said Indian industry wanted a global accord on investment and was supporting the EU stand on the issue. He named the Confederation of Indian Industry as the industry forum that was backing such a deal.
India and the other developing nations have refused to discuss the Singapore issues on the ground that the “clarificatory process” had not been completed and there was little understanding of the implications of a pact on investment.
The CII had denied Lamy’s claim but the issue surfaced again on Thursday when Lamy’s spokesperson Arancha Gonzales pulled out a document with a flourish at a well-attended press briefing to back the European Union’s claim that the Confederation of Indian Industry was supporting a deal on investment.
The document, which was supposedly a list of recommendations prepared by CII, the Federation of Germany Industries (BDI) and a Dutch industry forum for the Cancun meeting, said: “A meaningful multilateral investment agreement can be a tool to foster foreign direct investment and thus development. The agreement could enhance market access, incorporate the principles of non-discrimination and transparency, provisions for post-establishment protection and against expropriation. It could also safeguard the right of governments to determine appropriate policies in the public interest.”
While admitting that discussions had been held between BDI and CII in New Delhi recently, the industry forum said it did not “agree to the launching of any negotiations on trade and investment.”
Deploring the move to drive a wedge in the Indian ranks (CII officials are advising the Indian team at the trade talks), the apex chamber said the European Union had misled everyone by selectively picking from the wording of the document.
CII said it had ensured that BDI accepted its point of view by tagging a disclaimer that read: “However, there are general concerns about the possible fallouts of an agreement on an issue about which there is little understanding of its implications in many developing countries. This calls for frank and honest deliberations on the appropriate way of negotiating modalities of an agreement. In this context, we request the WTO members to sincerely engage themselves in forging consensus on the modalities.”
Far from forging consensus on the modalities, the G-22 has recommended to the facilitator on the subject, Canada’s trade minister Pierre Pettigrew, that they do not intend to deliberate on the subject at Cancun.
The European Union’s action is misleading and not in keeping with the spirit of Doha and the long-standing co-operation between Indian and European industries.