Monday June 17,2002

The Financial Express

India will undergo a three-day collective examination of its full range of trade policies and practices at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva beginning Wednesday. “Two documents will be discussed on our laws & regulations, our institutional framework, business regulations and other preferential agreements. One has been prepared by us and the other by WTO secretariat, both addressing the wider economic context and external environment,” a commerce ministry offical said. Commerce Secretary S N Menon, alongside Indian envoy to WTO K M Chanderashekhar will represent India, and WTO director-general Mike Moore will chair.

India’s trade policy review was last done in 1998. “The review is extremely important, for they (member nations such as the US) might go after you with hammer and tongs, some of the nuanced in the context of what they want from you,” feels trade policy expert Pradeep Mehta at CUTS, Jaipur. “They‘ll put a X-ray through your internal liberalisation process, FDI, TRIMS, tariffs, anti-dumping, and many areas where you have been lacking. This (the process) can be excruciating,” Mr. Mehta argues.

Ministry officials don’t share this sentiment, and say this is a “routine evaluation, like, say, the one Pakistan underwent in January”. They mention thought that “any issue whatsoever” including our past commitments amy be brought up by member nations and MR. Moore’s closing observations will be considerably important.

CII senior advisor T K Bhaumik feels that “India will indeed, be put on the radar screen of the general council” and “difficult questions will be asked”. These, he says, will “impact on our forthcoming negotiations strength” at the trade negotiations committee under Mr. Moore. “I, however, don’t expect cynical observations, and hope our negotiating position won’t be weakened”, Mr. Bhaumik said.