October 23, 2005, New Delhi, Press Release

CUTS International, a leading Indian NGO engaged in research and advocacy on WTO and related issues, supports the stand taken by the Commerce Minister Kamal Nath at a recently concluded meeting in Geneva on WTO negotiations on agriculture.

“No deal is better than a bad deal and by being steadfast against the onslaught of rich countries Mr. Nath not only upheld the interests of poor Indian farmers but also those of other developing countries. His approach of ‘not accepting post-dated cheques of a bank having no cash balance’ will have significant implications in future negotiations at the WTO,” said Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International.

“As in the past, rich countries are going back on their own words but this game is now well-understood by countries like India. For example, the European Union is trying to back load its commitment to reduce agricultural subsidies, which was made a year ago, by citing differences within its members. It is good that India has understood every move of this game,” Mehta continued. “Now it is time for India to stick to the stand taken by a group of 20 (G-20) developing countries on agriculture negotiations”.

There is also an attempt to link negotiations on agriculture with other issues such as reduction in tariffs of industrial goods, opening of services industries. “These are different issues and are to be dealt separately. True there could be ‘give and take’ but not between the interests of poor farmers of India and rich insurance companies of the US,” Mehta added.

He urged Indian NGOs to stand solidly behind the stand taken by India. “There could even be attempts to break our solidarity. Indian NGOs should not play into the hands of others. Instead they should garner more support to our stand before, during and after the Hong Kong ministerial”.

Trade ministers from WTO member-countries will meet at Hong Kong in December this year to take forward the Doha round of negotiations. Agriculture could make or break these negotiations. According to Pascal Lamy, recently appointed WTO Director-General, two months in the run up to Hong Kong are crucial for the successful conclusions of the Doha round by the end of 2006.