The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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On market access negotiations on non-agricultural products, the chairman of the negotiating group has devised a formula that recognizes and incorporates certain elements for the developing countries as mandated by the Doha Declaration, while achieving significant reductions in the tariffs of all members. We are of the view that amending any aspect of the formula or the formula itself would negate the entire work done so far. The suggestion for mandatory tariff harmonization and elimination would be most iniquitous to developing countries because substantial, if not the entire, contribution would then be made by developing countries. On sectoral proposal, we believe that not all the seven sectors are of export interest to all developing countries. Being at different stages of development, they do not have the capacity to undertake binding obligations in all the seven sectors. Consequently all members cannot be expected to participate equally in the initiative. Nor are all members agreeable to a sectoral approach.

We do believe that all the Singapore issues are trade related. Besides, the disciplines proposed in this area would require new policy actions to be taken only in developing countries. At Doha we agreed to join the consensus in favour of the declaration only after it was made certain that these issues needed further clarification and that any decision on commencing negotiations on these would be dependent on an explicit consensus on the modalities of each of these issues in this ministerial conference. Our strongest arguments still remain that the World Trade Organization is not the right forum, that the traditional WTO principles of non-discrimination particularly national treatment are not appropriate for a development policy-related issue like investment and that trade negotiators are not the right people to deal with movements of capital that have dynamics of their own.

We have been participating actively and with an open mind in the discussions on the elements of these issues with a view to clarifying them better so that there is convergence on these issues for taking a decision on modalities. It is our assessment ó and that of many other countries as well ó that there are significant and deep differences in views of members on many elements of these issues. Hence we are not convinced of the appropriateness of taking a decision on modalities as it does not give us any idea of the substance and direction of obligations that agreements in this area may require us to undertake.

The need for a multilateral agreement on investment itself is not clear. It can neither promise additional investment flows nor reduce transaction costs for investors significantly. However, an agreement will certainly curtail the policy space of developing countries. An agreement in this area will not be advantageous to all members as the benefits of such an agreement will accrue entirely to developed countries from which two thirds of all cross-border investments originate. The process of clarification of issues has revealed the wide divergence in views on various elements including scope and definition, transparency, dispute settlement, performance requirement, etc. While the demanders are seeking onerous obligations from host countries, they are reluctant to agree to binding rules on foreign investors and home governments. We remain determined to resist such inequitable obligations being thrust upon us.

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