CUTS IN MEDIA-September 2006
September 26, 2006
The SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) organised a session at the Annual WTO Public Forum on September 26, 2006 in Geneva. The Annual WTO Public Forum 2006 was held from September 25-27, 2006 at the WTO headquarters in Geneva. The objective of the Forum was to stimulate discussions among stakeholders and participants about significant WTO issues. The theme for this year’s Forum, “What WTO for the XXIst Century?" will focus on WTO and its significance in the 21st century.
The SCCI session entitled “Stocktaking on
WTO Negotiations: Concerns of Developing Countries” highlighted
and raised issues of developing countries, particularly South
Asia, at an international forum.
Recently, the Doha talks have been postponed over which the South
Asian business community is disappointed. This session addressed
the concerns of both developing and least developing countries
(LDCs) with special interest of the private sector regarding the
WTO negotiations. It tackled issues that must be addressed to
successfully conclude the Doha Round of negotiations without suppressing
the interest of the developing countries. Moreover, the session
highlighted the need to design the global trading system with
the widest participation of all WTO members and communities that
would be affected by the outcomes, particularly the poorest and
September 19, 2006,
Economic Partnership agreements (EPAs) will be
good for developing countries in the long run, the European Commission
in Zambia assured, but civil society organizations says this may
not be the case unless poor countries increase their negotiating
Zambia is currently negotiating an EPA with the EU as port of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) configuration, with the COMESA Secretariat having been mandated by ESA states to coordinate the regions negotiations. The ESA group agreed to break down the EPA negotiations into six clusters of development issues; market access; agriculture; fisheries trade in services; and trade related areas.
At a recent consultative workshop on EPAs organised by Civil Society Trade Network of Zambia (CSTNZ) and the Consumer Unity and Trust Society- Africa Resource Centre (CUTS-ARC) it was agreed that despite several fears. EPAs are anticipated to serve as a key element for increased trade between Europe and Africa.
CUTS-ARC researcher Vladmir Chilinya said Zambia, being party to the EPA negotiation is expected to benefit from increased exports and welfare due to lower imported prices.
He, however, said the proposed trade liberalization
under EPAs has been criticized as not being suitable for reducing
poverty in Zambia.
Chiliniya said concerns were raised over the continued
the lack of negotiating capacity to effectively which negatively
affects Zambia’s negotiating ability.
But Francesca Di Mauro, head of Economic and Trade-related Cooperation at the Delegation of European Commission in Zambia, allayed fears regarding EPAs.
She said the flooding of EU products that was being feared would only take place in African countries had to open up the borders to the EU as of January 1, 2008.
“This is not the case, only the EU will have to offer zero rates on most products on that date, while the ACPs will benefit from long transition periods. This means that ACPs will and can keep their protection for many years in a number of sectors, including for the ‘infants’ sectors, sensitive products, and they can also use safeguards provision as needed”.
She said trade liberlisation would be a gradual approach with ACPs first opening among themselves, and then eventually with the EU.
“In the long-term, we should not forget that lower prices for imported goods be they from neighbouring countries or from the EU, are beneficial for consumers, but also for producers who need to import equipment and machinery to develop their domestic industries,” she said.
Di Mauro stressed that liberalisation is a process
that highlights which sectors are competitive in the world markets,
with a growing potential.
“In this process of reallocation of resources it will be important that governments foresee social safety nets to minimise the impact on the most affected sectors, until the labour force slowly moves into the growing exporting sectors,” she advised.
New fears have emerged regarding EPAs that they
may be negotiated outside the WTO domain as multilateral negotiations
“The danger is that we will end up negotiating
issues that we will not have agreed upon at the multilateral level,”
Bwalya said at a recent post Honk-Kong national workshop on WTO.
If WTO talks had been completed on their initial deadline of end-2004, African countries would have had three years on hand to assimilate some of the multilateral trade agreements into EPAs negotiations.
“The WTO timeline keeps shifting but the EPA deadline still stands and wwe are found grappling with how we can synchronise the two,” Bwalya said.
But Di Mauro said these fears were “unfounded”.She
said EPAs would be within globally acceptable rules.
“The compatibility derives from the fact
that EPAs will, in the long-term, be a reciprocal agreement. That
is, a Free Trade Area between the EU and the ACPs. However since
the WTO requires that ‘substantially all’ trade between
the EU and the ACPs is liberalised, this leaves some room for the
ACPs to protect certain priority sensitive sectors, or invoking
safeguard measures if necessary, hence allowing some asymmetry in
the Agreements,” Di Mauro said.
15, 2006, Business Standard
One of the biggest changes in the last decade is the high degree of awareness amongst urban schoolchildren of environmental issues. But will these same children, when they begin to wield authority in the workplace, continue to be as aware?
The question assumes importance in the light of a new report* by CUTS, an advocacy group based in Jaipur, on ecolabelling in India. Ecolabelling has been a shining failure here, it says, and examines the reasons why. It also suggests what needs to be done.
There are three types of ecolabelling. Type I is the best because it is certified by an independent agency. Type II is a self-declaration of green virtue, and Type III is a mere listing of the product’s virtues without any form of endorsement.
The purpose of ecolabels is to help the consumer decide if he wants to buy the product. In Europe, ecolabels are a virtual must and, indeed, serve as a non-governmental, non-tariff barrier. No label, no sale.
“The first ecolabelled products were launched in Germany in the late 1970s and since then it has become one of the more high profile market-based tools for achieving environmental objectives,” says the report.
India, never a shirker when it comes to virtue, adopted ecolabelling as being a “good” thing in 1991, even before it was endorsed in 1992 by the UN. And that done, it went back to sleep.
The administrative responsibility is vested in the ministry of environment and forests. It sets the standards. The label is a matka.
“However, even after 15 years in existence, only 12 manufacturers of products like paper, pulp, leather and wood particleboard have received the Ecomark licence.” Bad? Well, there’s more to come. “Furthermore, these same licensees hardly use the Ecomark symbol as none of them find any benefit in it.”
CUTS decided to find out why the scheme has failed so spectacularly in India. It circulated a questionnaire and conducted follow-up discussions with a large number of companies. Other data collection techniques were also used in respect of the different government agencies.
The report also says that “another reason for derailment was that some business lobbies worked hard to disrupt it: the detergent industry being a case in point.” But this, the report suggests, is the lesser problem. The biggest problem is government apathy.
“The BIS treats the Ecomark Scheme like a stepchild. Communication between different branches/ministries of the government has been very poor at times, responsibilities have got diffused and the entire management has been weak.”
Net result: the scheme has no parentage and is an orphan. The ministry of environment, which excels in negative actions, has failed miserably in taking positive action. One can only guess at the reasons but in the Indian context, I am sure everyone will guess correctly.
So what needs to be done? The report has made the following recommendations.
The existing three-tier system has been too bureaucratic. So a new, independent board should be set up.
The number of products should be prioritised and product categories to be chosen on measurable parameters.
The scheme needs to be made more forward looking to account for things like electronics.
Since ecolabels are used as non-tariff barriers,
domestic as well as international requirements need to be balanced
while forming criteria. The government should press for equivalence
and mutual recognition of the schemes of different countries at
*Why is India’s Ecomark scheme unsuccessful?, by P S Mehta firstname.lastname@example.org
September 14, 2006,
AMID the public discontent over the Right to Information
Amendment Bill, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah
says: "I cannot presume to know whether the amendment bill
will be passed. Nor 0am I so arrogant to believe that the government
will accept my advice on the matter." The Right to Information
Act, which was to reverse the 1923 Official Secrets Act which protects
government secrets from the public, is set to be amended in the
winter session of Parliament. Habibullah was one of the delegates
to the Interactive Session on the Right to Information Amendment
Bill, organized by CUTS International at the India International
Centre today. Magsaysay Award winner and CEO of Parivartan,
Arvind Kejriwal, was also present. Kejriwal, who thanked Habibullah
for having spoken out against amending the Act, said people mistakenly
believed that only file notings will be removed under the
amendment. He says not just file notings but also information on
a particular project would be withheld unless the authorities take
a final decision. "This exclusion of the public from decision-making
defeats the purpose of the Act.
September 06, 2006, Financial Express
Consumer groups have demanded that CAS be implemented beyond the four metros where it is scheduled to be out. CAS is currently only in Chennai. However, following a Delhi High Court order in July, CAS will have to be implemented in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata by this year-end.
“The roll-out of CAS in the notified areas of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata should be followed by other regions and cities,” representatives of consumer groups like National Consumer Helpline (NCH), Voice and CUTS have demanded.
“Implementation of CAS in select cities is a welcome step. Ultimately, the entire country should be covered under CAS,” a CUTS official said.
SK Virmani of NCH, said, “The Rs 5 ceiling is high and we want this to further come down to Re 1.” NCH also demanded that advertising on pay channels should be banned.
Copyright 2005 Consumer Unity &
Trust Society (CUTS), All rights reserved.