India today expressed hope that negotiations on a global trade deal under the WTO's Doha Round of talks will move forward at the forthcoming ministerial meet at Bali in December. However, it said that if talks on the G-33 proposal of the developing countries like India, which deals with food security issues, did not move forward at the meeting, the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) may also not see any progress.
Under the TFA, a proposal of developed countries, WTO members are negotiating ways to facilitate trade, simplify and harmonise customs rules and reduce transactions cost. "India is looking for a possible outcome in Bali meet. Last week's development in Geneva do give us a sense of positivity. We feel that things will move. "But we are also circumspect that if G-33 proposal and some of the developmental elements do not move, then TFA also may not move," Additional Secretary in the Commerce Ministry Rajeev Kher said here at a WTO function. Kher is also India's Chief negotiator at WTO.
Although India is willing to negotiate on TFA, it has raised few concerns over the proposed agreement as it would entail huge investments in creating infrastructure at ports and airports. "TFA is a desirable agreement. But (the way) it is placed on the table, it does not have all the elements the developing countries would want.the proposal mooted by countries like India have to be given equal weightage and equal seriousness," he said.
He added that TFA would put tremendous burden on developing countries like India in terms of requirement of human resource, finances, infrastructure and "more in terms of changing laws and procedures and practices". The 9th WTO Ministerial Conference will be held in Bali from December 3-6. The Ministerial Conference is the highest decision-making body of the 158-member multi-lateral Organisation which meets at least once every two years.
The Doha talks, launched in 2001, have missed several deadlines for its conclusion due to divergent views on some of the issues between the developed countries like the US and the developing nations such as India. The G-33 proposal, mooted by developing countries like India and China, is for food security and flexibility in their public stock holding operations for public distribution system.
Kher said during the last 8-10 months, "there is a huge amount of convergence on thinking that something must come out from Bali". However, he expressed concern that if nothing would come out from the meet, people may raise questions on the relevance of the multi-lateral body.