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Nath clears air on trade-off

New Delhi, Dec. 20: Commerce minister Kamal Nath today said the apprehensions of the Left over the WTO agreement were “absolutely misplaced” as India’s interests in agriculture, industry and services had been addressed in the ministerial declaration.

Nath will meet Left leaders soon to clarify the position. The country had made substantial gains from the deal without compromising on its policy space, he added.

“I have also sought time from the Lok Sabha speaker and the Rajya Sabha chairman to make a statement in Parliament,” he said.

The CPM had said yesterday that the government had failed to protect the interests of farmers and given away major concessions in the services sector at the WTO talks in Hong Kong.

The minister said India would not have to reduce tariffs for its farm products as the agreement clearly recognises the need to protect poor farmers in the country. In addition, it provides for a special safeguard mechanism to protect the sector from any sudden surge in imports, he said.

Besides, India would not have to reduce the assistance that is being extended to poor farmers.

Developed countries will have to reduce export subsidies by 2010 and eliminate them completely by 2013. This would make Indian products competitive and help the country’s exports in the global markets.

The CPM claims the special products and safeguard mechanism will not be sufficient as India had already agreed to further cuts in agricultural tariffs.

“The government has to explain how the agreement in Hong Kong will help protect our farmers and agriculture,” the CPM said.

Similarly, it had criticised the agreement on industrial tariffs as it would entail substantial cuts in rates for India and the developing countries.

The Left feels the most retrograde part of the declaration is regarding services. According to the new regime, FDI in various services sectors will have to be negotiated as the text obliges India to consider “commitments on enhanced levels of foreign equity participation”.

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