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Govt hints at flexibility in WTO talks in line with FTAs

The Hindu, India

Govt hints at flexibility in WTO talks in line with FTAs

31 May 2011

PTI/India may agree in the WTO negotiations to cut tariff in specific sectors in which the country is, any way, slashing duties under Free Trade Agreements with different countries and blocs, a Commerce Ministry official said today.

In the government-industry consultations here, an indication was given that India may show some flexibility on a demand from the industrialised nations that the developing world should agree for zero or close-to-zero duties on their imports of specific goods.

So far, India has opposed any mandatory provision for enforcing duty elimination, arguing in different WTO fora that such a course should, at best, be voluntary.

The government has been largely toeing views of the domestic industry in this regard.

However, Director in the Commerce Ministry, Tapan Mazumder, told a Ficci meeting that India was eliminating or slashing duties, any way, on imports from the countries with which it has entered into FTAs.

“You have to keep in mind that if imports are taking place from these FTA countries, then certainly we have an option to reduce tariffs in those lines for the ‘Sectorals’ as well.

Under the so called ‘Sectoral’ proposal in the Doha Round, the industrialised nations are pressing for elimination of duties or reducing it close to zero for various groups, including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, dyestuffs and plastics, electronics, electrical and engineering products.

India has entered into FTAs with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), South Korea and Japan.

Industry is expected to give its feedback by June 15 to the Centre for WTO Studies in the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), which is helping in the government-industry consultation process.

Industry associations representing these product groups also participated in the meeting.