| Jaitley: Buying time
New Delhi, Oct. 22: Commerce minister Arun Jaitley today ruled out the possibility of the Cancun draft forming a starting point for future negotiations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Addressing a Ficci-Unctad seminar here, he said the draft was the main cause of the stalemate at the Cancun ministerial conference. Jaitley said agriculture held the key to any future negotiations and what was proposed in the Cancun draft for the farm sector was “scary” for developing countries like India, which have 650 million poor farmers. He further said the draft completely buried the development dimension of the Doha agenda and only furthered “development of the developed nations”.
Some of the developed countries have mooted the idea that the draft floated at Cancun on September 13 can become the reference point for future discourse. However, Jaitley said WTO negotiations cannot be “just take and take” and India would adopt a give-and-take approach to maximise gains. Although the Cancun ministerial failed, it had several positive aspects and it was time that member countries buried the differences and move forward, he added.
Jaitley made it clear that the Singapore issues could not be part of any future negotiations, particularly investment and competition, on which EU legitimacy had been dented after it agreed to drop them from the work programme at Cancun.
He pointed out that the high domestic support and export subsidies extended to farmers in the developed countries depressed prices so much that it threatened the livelihood of poor farmers in developing countries.
He, however, said there was no alternative to rule-based multilateral trading system and it was in the fitness of things that the country responds to the emerging situation in a matured manner.
Striking a positive note, the minister said the collapse of Cancun ministerial cannot be described as a failure of trade negotiations as it was only a stock-taking exercise and a mid-way point on Doha round of negotiations. “It was a failure only in the sense that it failed to produce a document, but there were several positives both at Cancun and pre-Cancun which cannot be lost sight of.”
Jaitley cited the successful completion of Trips and public health ahead of Cancun and said this would benefit the developing nations by providing access to cheaper medicines.