Financial Express, 30th April 2003

New Delhi: The European Commission insists that negotiations on the four Singapore issues should commence after the conclusion of the fifth World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting in Cancun (Mexico) being held from September 10-14. But India holds that discussions on these can be started only if there is an “explicit consensus” among the members as mandated by the Doha declaration, says Stefano Gatto, European Union’s (EU) counsellor for trade and economic affairs. The issues are trade and investment, trade and competition policy, trade facilitation and transparency in government procurement.

Speaking at a meeting on EU-India network on trade and development in Delhi on Wednesday, Mr. Stefano Gatto however conceded that the deadlines on some of the issues set by the Doha mandate had been missed and pleaded that developing countries, including India, must understand the EU’s position on the Doha agenda. The network was launched in Brussels in 2000.

On textiles, he referred to a recent statement of the EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy that all the remaining quotas under the WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing would be phased out as scheduled by December 31, 2004.u though some developing countries were not fully ready to face the free market regime arising after this date.

In regard to services, he clarified that the EU was not in favour of full liberalisation of the sector. “We are not ready for it nor are we asking others to do it”, he stated.

Under Mode IV of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), namely, movement of natural persons, the Commission in its offer made on Tuesday had expanded the scope of services to include professionals such as laywers, engineers, architects, scientists and self-employed and maintained that it matched with New Delhi’s request, Mr. Stefano Gatto stated. He agreed that the EU could not make its offer by the March 31 deadline fixed earlier. Pointing out that anti-dumping was an important issues for the EU, Mr. Stefano Gatto felt it should not be used as a protectionist measure by the member-countries.

Speaking on the occasion, L Alan Winters of the University of Sussex, noted that one of the major issues between developed and developing countries related to mobility of labour, but none of the countries had utilised the GATS agreement for liberalisation of health services because of immigration policies.

Mr. Winters said the UK had liberalised its immigration rules in 2000 and increased the work permits for foreign doctors by 54 per cent adding that those issued to Indian doctors was 19 per cent, second only to the US with 20 per cent.

Further, about 20,000 doctors graduated in India every year, of which 4,000 to 5,000 moved out of the country while those registered in the country stood at 5,50,000, he stated.