India Moves Towards Regional Trade with South Africa and Latin America at World Trade Meet in Geneva

Arun Goyal, live from Geneva

2 Dec- The ninth ministerial WTO meeting is drawing to a close, a ritual with Doha negotiations off the agenda. The Indian delegation kept a low profile without the histrionics associated in the G20 with his good friend, Celso Amorim, the Brazil trade minister. Indian commerce minister Anand Sharma is happy that negotiations at the official level resumed 10 days after the Delhi mini ministerial in September this year. He is behind the agenda set by the WTO Secretariat for ending the negotiations by end of 2010. (The final outcome depends upon the stance taken by the US, if they support Doha and are ready to make concessions on Agriculture subsidies, Doha will come to a conclusion.)

India moved further towards regional trade and put its approval on the second round of GSTP (Generalized System of Trade Preferences an agreement between developing countries which does not have, as yet, China in it). In this meeting, some 22 countries including Argentina and Brazil were present. The GSTP was ushered in by UNCTAD which is the original trade promotion agency.)

India has moved further in strengthening trade ties with other countries in the South. Trade deals with SACU (South African Customs Union) is on the anvil, first ministerial level meeting between SACU and India was held in Geneva on the occasion of the WTO ministerial. Another deal with Mercosur is going to take place very soon. A meeting of Latin America, Southern Africa and India on the trade front is likely.

Market access

India is depending upon the flexibilities in the NAMA negotiations to protect sensitive sectors in the economies. It seems to have accepted the NAMA coefficient of 22 which goes with high duty cuts. The country, however, keeps its card close to the chest in the sectoral tariff deals where some 40 zero for zero deals are on the anvil following Hong King. The minister was cagey in the matter, all he said was that the sectoral negotiations are voluntary and he would like to compromise the position of the negotiators who are handling sensitive positions.

The Indian delegation meets with good response as many delegations line up to call on India. India is recognized as a software power, manufacturer of generics

It is also one of the few markets which is growing and provides demand to the recession hit global economy. The Indian delegation is very pleased with the string of visitors who called on the Indian minister. The EU, China, Japan, Norway, Malaysia and Indonesia were prominent among those who called. This is great contrast to Seattle ministerial in 1999 when Indian delegation spent time at the hotel waiting for recognition by the participants.

Sugar and Indian farmers

The Indian farmers were well represented in Geneva, huge banners asking for withdrawal of FTA were put up at the conference venues on behalf of the farmers. The minister came down sharply on the protestors saying that all talk of sugarcane farmers committing suicide was without base. The protestors had come to Geneva to gain publicity on false grounds, he claimed. The sugar agreement with Brazil was under attack by the farmer NGOs. They said that import of sugar was hurting

India will stay with WTO and proceed according to the work plan of negotiations.

The final declaration now is being drafted and will be released by the end of the day.