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Agenda for India at the WTO

A Report Card on CUTS-CITEE’s Advocacy Efforts

About CUTS CITEE

Background

Issues

General issues

 Market Access and Trade Liberalisation

TRIPs, Biological Diversity and Biotechnology

Trade, Investment and Competition

Trade and Environment

Trade and Labour Standards

About CUTS-CITEE

Established in 1983, Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) has been involved in several areas of public interest, working simultaneously at the grassroots, national, regional and international levels, with the mission Consumer sovereignty in the framework of social justice and equality, within and across borders. 

In 1991, CUTS ventured into the area of trade and development due to a lack of capacity among consumer groups in the South. There were two main reasons for CUTS to engage in international work on international trade and development issues. First, the demand emanating from various constituencies in the developing world to analyse, inform and educate them, and often advocate on their behalf. Secondly, the understanding within the organisation, that in an increasingly globalising world, as many of the problems have their source at the international level, the solutions too would lie there, or at least a better understanding will help resolve problems locally.

With this as backdrop, the CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economics & Environment (CUTS-CITEE) was established in 1996, to carry out high level political economic analyses on trade and development issues, advocate at the appropriate fora and strengthen capacities of the civil society in developing countries.

Since its inception, the work programme of CUTS-CITEE has three distinct and interwoven strands:

·       Creating and building long-term capacity to address issues of and the complex linkages between trade, investment, environment and development from a Southern perspective through policy research, advocacy, networking, cooperation, and information dissemination and outreach.

·       Analysing actions of international/inter-governmental institutions and national governments in this arena so as to enhance their responsiveness and acountability to the people and civil society at large.

·       Providing the upward and downward linkages with grassroots organisations to convey their views and concerns to policy makers at national and international levels, and vice versa.

Background

 Given the above-stated strands, the Centre has been conducting research, dialogues, advocacy, networking, information dissemination and outreach etc.

 During 1996-97, the Centre had organised four policy dialogues in India to discuss the emerging issues before the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Two of these were organised just before the first WTO Ministerial Conference at Singapore, December 1996 and one policy dialogue following this meeting. Recommendations for organising these dialogues emerged from a Roundtable Conference, held in Nagarkot, Nepal in May 1996.

 In all, there were 87 participants in these dialogues, out of which 36 were civil society representatives. People from the government, media, business organisations and research institutions also participated in these dialogues.  

 The objective was: “To develop a better understanding on the existing and emerging issues at the World Trade Organisation, their impact on India and evolve a consensus on India’s approach through a structured dialogue among policy makers, civil society representatives, experts and mediapersons.”

 The aim was to enable India to adopt a proactive stand at the international trade fora in the future, and also address the crucial need for strengthening of domestic policy to meet the challenges of globalisation and liberalisation.

 The outcome of the policy dialogues was a set of recommendations on general and specific issues, i.e. action points for advocacy. In all there were 42 recommendations, which were classified into the following sections: 

·       General issues

·       Market access and trade liberalisation

·       TRIPs, biological diversity and biotechnology

·       Trade, investment and competition

·       Trade and Environment

·       Trade and labour standards.

In December 1997, the document, ‘Agenda for India at the WTO – Need to be Proactive,’ taking into account the above-mentioned recommendations, was prepared and distributed as widely as possible. Since then the Centre has been doing advocacy with policy makers, trade experts, business organisations and mediapersons to take on board appropriate strategies to make those recommendations into realities.

More than three years have passed and now its time to revisit those recommendations, in order to get an idea of the Centre’s advocacy efforts. The following sections analyse the recommendations, the action points, outcome and leftover, and have also been graded as follows:

A+      Highly successful

      Successful

A-      Moderately successful

B+      Above average

      Average

B-       Below average

This exercise found that out of 42 recommendations, 13 cases we were considered ‘highly successful’ while 12 cases were ‘successful’. In four cases, we were ‘moderately successful. In six cases, the success was either ‘above average’ or ‘average’. In only one case, the success was ‘below average’.

 GENERAL ISSUES

Recommendations

Action Point/Target

Outcome

What is yet to be Done?

Grade

India has to evolve a proactive agenda with political economic arguments on existing issues at the WTO

Evolve specifically designed strategy by involving all concerned actors through a series of dialogue

 

Ministry of Commerce

Several stakeholder meetings have been conducted

 

More dialogues are to be organised to evolve a proactive agenda

A-

A National Trade Policy Council should be established. Working/Expert Groups on issues should be set up, which may co-opt experts in the field.

Establish a National Trade Policy Council

 

Ministry of Commerce

National Advisory Committee on International Trade has been formed and meetings were regularly  conducted

 

Specific Working Groups have also been formed and meetings held

To involve other ministries in this Committee

A+

Impress upon the polity the need to implement our commitments under the WTO while fully utilising the flexibilities provided in the Agreements to safeguard and promote India’s interests

Build positive public opinion with well-argued position papers, seminars and strategically placed articles in leading English and local language newspapers

 

Business chambers, NGOs

Politicians have been informed through

·       regular debates conducted by business chambers, NGOs and the government

·       seminars, and

·       articles

Convince politicians to take interest and approach trade issues in pro-active manner

A

Take stock of existing issues at the WTO and what needs to be done

Take structural initiative by involving various ministries, business and NGOs

 

Ministry of Commerce

Various initiatives have been taken by involving all actors

More interactive efforts are needed

A

Conduct research on the impact of existing and emerging issues at the WTO to enhance India’s preparedness

Prepare research papers on specific issues and maintain contact points in concerned ministries

 

Ministry of Commerce, research institutes, NGOs

Research papers were prepared, distributed and dialogues were organised regularly

Follow-up research and structured advocacy are to be conducted regularly

A+

Clarity in defining India’s strategic economic interests and better articulation of long-term goals

Develop a Vision 2020 document and conduct debates through a structured interactive strategy

 

Ministry of Commerce

Vision 2020 has been prepared

To evolve a structured interactive strategy

B+

Better coordination of different ministries on inter-linked issues

Establish an Inter-ministerial Committee of Secretaries

 

Ministry of Commerce

Inter-ministerial Committee of Secretaries has been formed and meetings were regularly conducted

To generate required interest in other ministries on trade issues

A+

Use bargaining chips in the international political arena and build sector-specific alliances

Identify specific areas for bargaining for better terms under the existing WTO acquis

 

Ministry of Commerce

Specific areas and bargaining chips have been identified

More efforts are needed in taking them forward

B

Involve United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in  policy formulation at the WTO

Take lead on the issue of strengthening UNCTAD in a proactive manner

 

Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Taken various steps, including conducting issue-specific seminars to strengthen UNCTAD’s role in trade policy matter

More issue-specific seminars need to be conducted and results to be taken forward

A-

Help least developed countries with better market access for their products

Provide zero tariff concessions to LDCs

 

Ministry of Commerce

Efforts are going on this regard, particularly for South Asian countries

Concessions are to be extended to African LDCs and results to be monitored

A

Help business to understand WTO issues better

Prepare WTO guides for business

 

Research institute, NGOs

Several guides have been prepared (CII-Business Guide on WTO, CUTS-LSE Training of Business Leaders, WTO Audit of Indian Industries) and distributed widely

Need to reach out to the business community at large and at various levels, especially small and medium enterprises

A+

Concerted efforts to build capacities of business chambers, academia, NGOs and mediapersons

Discuss the issue in the policy making bodies of the Government

 

Ministry of Commerce

Capacity building efforts are on and in a coordinated manner

Much more interaction among different actors are needed

A

Train mediapersons on trade issues for unbiased and well-informed knowledge

Expose and conduct media workshops, including inviting them in seminars etc

 

Research institutes, NGOs, business chambers, Ministry of Commerce

Mediapersons have been trained on trade policy issues by CUTS, government and others on a regular basis, which is visible in national newspapers

Provide more exposure to Indian language journalists so that they write in an objective manner

A

Operationalise specific recommendations

Prepare a detailed action plan for circulation to all actors

 

Ministry of Commerce

Plan of action has been prepared and discussed widely

Need to implement the plan of action and monitor it regularly so that necessary revision can be done at appropriate time

A

Enhance the national economic research budget with contribution from government and business

Address the Planning Commission and business chambers on creating higher outlays for research

 

Ministry of Commerce, NGOs

Planning Commission has created a corpus fund of Rs.100 crore (US$ 22 million) for conducting research

More in-depth, field-based research needs to be conducted

A+

MARKET ACCESS AND TRADE LIBERALISATION

Recommendations

Action Point/Target

Outcome

What is yet to be Done?

Grade

Pressurise industrialised countries to initiate structural adjustments, particularly in textiles and agriculture, to open up markets as mandated by the WTO

Conduct political analyses through structured consultations with all actors and adopt appropriate advocacy strategies

 

Ministry of Commerce

Political analyses have been done

Advocacy needs to be more focussed

A

Replace anti-dumping measures from the provisions of WTO by appropriate competition legislation

Take appropriate steps on the issue and exploit the divisions in the industrialised countries

 

Ministry of Commerce

Steps have been identified

Advocacy strategy to be evolved for seeking allies at the different levels

A

Seek further liberalisation of agricultural trade

Take appropriate steps in consultation with the Cairns Group of Countries

 

Ministry of Commerce

Consultation is going including the use of bargaining chips to get better market access

More focussed approach is needed

A+

Study the effects of tariff escalation on development and environment

Use the study as a basis for taking market access initiatives in the future negotiations at the WTO

 

Research institutes, NGOs, Ministry of Commerce

Studies have been done and used by the Government of India to advocate at the WTO for the rectification of tariff structures for different commodity groups

Results of the studies need to taken forward at appropriate levels

A+

Maintain a constant vigil on the emerging non-tariff barriers and strategise for the future

Identify and analyse major trade barriers hindering market access and trade liberalisation

 

Ministry of Commerce, Business, Research institutes, NGOs

Studies on non-tariff barriers affecting India’s exports have been and are being conducted by CUTS and other agencies and appropriate strategies are taken

Strategies are to be implemented at the political level by seeking allies

A+

 TRIPs, BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY 

Recommendations

Action Point/Target

Outcome

What is yet to be Done?

Grade

WTO-compatible amendments to the Patent Act with appropriate safeguards

Organise debates on the issue before amending the Patent Act

 

Ministry of Commerce

Public debates have been organised before placing the amended Patent Bill before the Parliament

Awareness generation at various levels on intellectual property rights and their implications for the economy

A+

Enact a sui generis legislation to protect plant varieties

Coordinate the formulation of such a legislation

 

Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Agriculture, NGOs, Research institutes

The formulation of such a bill is under progress as public debates continues

Advocacy for taking into account public interest issues while preparing the bill

B

Strengthen competition legislation to cope with monopolistic situation arising out of patent exploitation

Take appropriate actions at various levels

 

Ministry of Finance (Department of Company Affairs)

A new Competition Bill has been prepared, which has not taken into account the concerns raised

Need to sensitise and educate policy makers on linkages between IPRs and competition

B

Need for a public debate on the definition of micro-organisms

Organise the debate and study the linkages between the Convention on Biological Diversity and TRIPs

 

Research institute, NGOs, Ministry of Science and Technology (Department of Biotechnology)

Public debates are in the process

Focussed studies need to be completed and taken forward at the appropriate levels

B+

Simplify and strengthen the national patents system

Analyse the drawbacks and take appropriate actions

 

Ministry of Industry

Drawbacks have been analysed and the amended law has taken them into account

Monitor the implementation of the new law

B+

Greater public vigilance on patent applications

Develop appropriate mechanisms while involving NGOs in the process

 

Ministry of Industry, NGOs

Mechanisms have been developed

Ensure NGO involvement in the process

B+

Prepare well-argued position papers for the review of TRIPs

Commission such papers for advancing the issues

 

Ministry of Commerce, Research institutes, NGOs

Position papers have been prepared

Concerted efforts are needed to take the arguments forward

B+

Analyse and assess domestic legislation which have an impact upon biological diversity

Draw up a strategy for analyses and public debates

 

Research institutes, NGOs

Strategic analysis has been made, and public debates have been organised

A need for a more focussed effort

A

 TRADE, INVESTMENT AND COMPETITION

Recommendations

Action Point/Target

Outcome

What is yet to be Done?

Grade

Discuss implications of international investment agreements

Conduct in-depth research

 

Ministry of Commerce, research institutes, NGOs

Some research has been conducted and the results were discussed

In-depth research and advocacy are required

A

Strengthen domestic policies and legislation governing investment, competition and consumer welfare

Amend/enact legislation and organise public debates

 

Ministry of Commerce

Enactment of the new competition legislation is on the cards and consumer protection legislation is being amended

More efforts are needed to take into account investment and consumer welfare issues

B

Explore the development of international competition policy to safeguard the interests of developing countries

Needs to initiate and support discussions on this issue at the WTO Working Group on Trade and Competition Policy

 

Ministry of Commerce

Taking part in the discussions at the WTO Working Group

Need to be pro-active in raising development dimensions vis-à-vis competition and highlight developing countries’ concerns

A-

Revive the discussions on the UN Code of Conduct on Transnational Corporations

Demand revival of the discussions and seek allies in other developing countries

Not much efforts have been made

Advocate at the appropriate level to revive the Code

B-

Explore intra-OECD positions on multilateral agreement on investment and discuss them tactically with the OECD members

Alert Indian missions to meet the appropriate persons in the Economic Ministries of OECD Governments to gain a better understanding

 

Ministry of Commerce

Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) at the OECD level was aborted

Issue is not yet dead and diluted version is coming up at the WTO, thus preparation is necessary

A+

Prepare an alternative vision of a MAI and gain support through advocacy

Commission research on the issue and organise public debates

 

Ministry of Commerce, research institutes, NGOs

Prepared and distributed materials while organising a series of public debates globally

Generate awareness about the alternate version of MAI while continuing advocacy

A+

TRADE AND ENVIRONMENT 

Recommendations

Action Point/Target

Outcome

What is yet to be Done?

Grade

Hold consultations with stakeholders to take stock and evolve an appropriate response

Take positive steps and organise regular meetings to design an appropriate action plan

 

Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Environment & Forests

Consultations have been held, and an action plan has been designed

Advance the action plan at the political level while seeking allies

A+

Garner support for excluding globally beneficial, environment-friendly technologies from intellectual property rights

Analyse the issues in a coordinated manner, identify allies and design appropriate advocacy strategies

 

Ministry Environment & Forests, NGOs

Some analysis have been done

Analysis needs to be done for designing and implementing advocacy strategy

B

Adopt national environmental standards to minimise adverse effects of environment-related trade measures

Ensure proper participation in the standards setting process

 

 

Ministry of Environment & Forests

Participation of consumer organisations in the standard setting process has been ensured

Concerted efforts are needed to make national standards compatible with the international standards

A-

Advocate for the adoption of unambiguous rules and notifications relating to trade in domestically prohibited goods

Conduct research and outreach on the issue and seek allies at the international level

 

Ministry of Commerce, NGOs

Research is going on

Appropriate advocacy strategy is to be designed for political push while also seeking allies

B

 TRADE AND LABOUR STANDARDS 

Recommendations

Action Point/Target

Outcome

What is yet to be Done?

Grade

Guard against linkage between trade and labour standards

Assert that labour standards should not be linked with trade

 

Ministry of Commerce, NGOs

Vocal against linking labour standards with international trade and clearly articulated India’s position 

Continue dialogues and advocacy on issues of linkage between trade and labour standards and find out a globally acceptable solution

A+

Take steps to effectively implement labour welfare legislation

Make holistic efforts to improve labour welfare in the country

 

Ministry of Labour

Labour Commission has recommended appropriate steps that the Government has accepted

More reforms are required, thus advocacy efforts should continue

A

Prepare for multilateral initiatives in case social clause is discussed at the WTO

Conduct research and identify appropriate advocacy options

 

Ministry of Commerce, NGOs, business chambers

Several research projects have been conducted and advocacy is in process

Discuss various options at the national level, by involving all relevant stakeholders, including NGOs

A

Prepare appropriate communication strategies to place the counterfactuals in the right context

Analyse and collate the counterfactuals and design communications strategies

 

Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Labour, NGOs, business chambers

Counterfactuals are being prepared

Need to develop a strategy to improve communication with governments, trade unions, NGOs, academics, and media persons

B+

Contact CITEE

CUTS Centre For International Trade, Economics & Environment (CITEE)

D–217,  Bhaskar Marg,  Bani  Park, 

Jaipur  302 016,  India,

Ph: +91(0)141-22207 482

Fax: 91.141.2282485  

Email: cuts@sancharnet.in,citee@cuts.org  

 

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Copyright 2005, Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), All rights reserved.
D-217, Bhaskar Marg, Bani Park, Jaipur 302 016, India
Ph: 91.141.2282821, Fax: 91.141.2282485

 

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