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Once bitten, WTO lobby presents a united face

With the ministerial negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) nearing in Hong Kong, Indian chambers of commerce are not taking any chances and are presenting a united front on all contentious issues.

That’s a marked contrast from the last meet in Cancun when a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) delegate had deviated from the official Indian stand and was asked not to attend the meet. This time, business lobby groups are busy consulting each other and the government.

Economist T. Bhaumik, who as a CII delegate had taken a different stand in 2003, clarifies: “In the last meeting, I had said that if there is a consensus then India should be a party to join the talks on Singapore Issues. The rest of the India delegation, however, was against initiating talks.” The Singapore Issues — introduced into WTO in December 1996 — include trade and investment, trade and competition policy, transparency in government buying and trade facilitation. This time, all chambers have outlined their strategy just before the meeting.

And it’s in line with the Indian government’s stand which is to ask the developed nations to cut their subsidies to farmers and ask more access for India in the global markets. “There should be quid pro quos in each individual area of negotiation and gains and losses should not be balanced across sectors,” the CII said.

All chambers — who will be joining the meeting as non-governmental organisation — said they will work with the Indian government and other 148-member WTO member countries to ensure that the Doha Round leads to a meaningful conclusion for all stake holders.


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