India and Brazil slam new WTO Doha proposals
GENEVA (Reuters) - India and Brazil criticized two new sets of proposals in the Doha round of trade talks at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Tuesday, signaling that wide gaps in the negotiations remain despite recent progress.
The two developing countries, who play a major role in the talks, said that a U.S.-EU proposal to free up trade in environmental goods was little more than a disguised attempt to boost sales of goods of rich nations.
They also said a negotiating text on "rules" -- anti-dumping, subsidies and fisheries subsidies -- was a step backwards that excessively accommodated U.S. concerns.
India also expressed alarm that the key agriculture talks were tilting too much towards the needs of rich countries and were ignoring the requirements of the sub-continent's millions of subsistence farmers.
India has been committed to the Doha talks, launched six years ago and now aiming for conclusion next year, said India's WTO ambassador Ujal Singh Bhatia.
"But if, God forbid, a time comes when that price of engagement is unpayable by us, then we will have to stand up and say that," he told Reuters.
NO BASIS FOR NEGOTIATION
The United States and the European Union launched a proposal in the long-running Doha talks last Friday to counter climate change by eliminating tariffs on 43 climate-friendly goods and setting up a wider agreement on environmental goods and services for developed and advanced developing countries.
"We don't think it's a basis for negotiation on environmental products," said Brazil's top trade negotiator, Roberto Azevedo. "Brazil is deeply disappointed with the proposal. We find the proposal modest, we find it biased and we find it protectionist," he told a briefing.
Azevedo noted that the U.S.-EU proposal made no reference to biofuels, of which Brazil is a major producer, or the technologies to produce them, and said the list was geared to U.S.-EU products. "Anything that they don't produce is not on the list," he said.
Bhatia said India could support proposals to free up trade in goods whose sole use was countering climate change, such as solar panels or windmills, but the list could be extended over time to new models of cars or refrigerators that were more energy-efficient, and that was unacceptable.
"Their list is a disguised effort at getting market access through other means and does not satisfy the mandate for environment," he said.
Both Brazil and India expressed dismay at the rules proposal that met U.S. concerns by allowing a controversial method of calculating anti-dumping duties called zeroing. This would allow the abuse of trade remedies to foster protectionism, they said.
Washington had said it was disappointed at last Friday's proposals, but added they were a basis for negotiation.
Bhatia said the proposals on banning most fisheries subsidies, welcomed by environmental groups, would cause India difficulty as it tries to improve the living conditions of its fishermen, among the poorest people in the country.
The proposals do give some leeway to developing countries to support fishermen, but he said the conditions, such as setting up approved fisheries management schemes, were too onerous.
Senior Indian Commerce Department official Jayant Dasgupta said a disproportionate effort in the WTO's key agriculture talks was going into shielding the commercial interests of the relatively small number of farmers in rich countries.
At the same time poor countries were being squeezed on proposals to protect the livelihoods of subsistence farmers making up the majority of the population -- 65 percent in India's case.
India needed to shield such people, often living on less than $1 a day, from market fluctuations, and encourage them to stay on the land to ensure food security for the country.