Category: WTO agreements

Public stockholding – is it end of the road for ‘permanent solution’?

The 11th WTO [World Trade Organization] ministerial which started on December 10, 2017 in Buenos Aires with pomp and show has ended in whimper. After four days of marathon deliberations [in the plenary, group meetings and bilateral], even the efforts by director general, Roberto Azevedo to draft a declaration – a bare minimum for any such conference – did not bear fruit. The main reason for the failure was diametrically opposite stance taken by USA and India. While, the latter pressed for the most contentious issue under the Doha Development Round [DDR] viz. finding a permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security, the former did not even allow it to be put on the table [earlier in November...
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India’s stance on food security at WTO – Prabhu does a volte face

The union minister of commerce and industry, Suresh Prabhu has stated that “he won’t take up the issue of finding a permanent solution for public stock-holding programs for food security at the upcoming WTO ministerial in Buenos Aires next month”. This should be music to the ears of developed countries particularly USA, EU, Canada, Australia and Japan as this was a major item on the agenda of the Doha Development Round [DDR] – started in 2001- which they are hell bent on dumping. In fact, during a meeting at WTO, Geneva [July, 2017], they had rejected a proposal submitted by G-33 Group of developing countries [with India in the lead] on (i) public stock-holding for food security; (ii) special safeguard mechanism [SSM]...
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US law makers game plan to kill H-1B jobs

On April 18, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an  executive order called “Buy American, Hire American”, directing federal agencies to review the H-1B visa program with the aim to end alleged ‘fraud’ and ‘abuse’ and ensure only the “most-skilled and highest-paid applicants” were successfully processed. [H-1B visas are issued to foreigners who have ‘theoretical’ and ‘technical’ expertise in specialized areas to work in local [read American] companies for temporary period.] As a follow up, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS] which administers these visas, is already implementing measures which severely restrict or delay grant of such visas. These include inter alia stop ‘premium’ processing of applications, more rigorous interview/procedural requirements, denial of employment to spouses of those already working...
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11th WTO ministerial – India must not play defensive

In the run up to the upcoming WTO ministerial in Buenos Aires [December, 2017], ex-commerce minister, Nirmala Sitharaman has once again reiterated India’s resolve to seek a permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security besides taking up two other proposals viz. special safeguard mechanism [SSM] against sudden surge in imports of agricultural products and movement of short-term services providers. But, India is up against heavy odds as during her recent visit to WTO, Geneva [July, 2017] , US, EU, Canada, Australia and Japan had rejected a proposal submitted by G-33 Group of developing countries in this regard. At the same time, developed countries wanted to bring to the table issues such as e-commerce and disciplines for micro, small,...
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STANDING FIRM ON FOOD SUBSIDIES

With India-China having jointly petitioned WTO, it is expected that both will reach at a permanent solution to address anomalies surrounding food procurement In a joint paper submitted to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) committee on agriculture on July 17, India and China lambasted the developed countries, including the United States, the European Union and Canada for consistently giving trade-distorting subsidies to their farmers at levels much higher than the ceiling applicable to developing countries with respect to such subsidies. According to the paper, “Developed countries corner more than 90 per cent of global Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) — a technical jargon for trade-distorting subsidies — entitlements amounting to nearly $160 billion, which is beyond their de minimis (maximum permissible level of AMS)....
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11th WTO ministerial – should address ‘anomalies’ in AoA

In a joint paper submitted to the WTO’s [World Trade Organization] Committee on Agriculture, on July 17, 2017, India and China have lambasted developed countries including the US, the EU and Canada for consistently giving trade-distorting subsidies to their farmers at levels much higher than ceiling applicable to developing countries in respect of to such subsidies. According to the paper, “developed countries corner more than 90 per cent of global Aggregate Measurement of Support [AMS] [a technical jargon for trade-distorting subsidies] entitlements amounting to nearly US$160 billion which is beyond their de minimis [maximum permissible level of AMS]. In contrast, most developing countries have access only to de minimis resulting in a major asymmetry in the rules on agricultural trade.” The overarching objective...
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Leverage WTO GPA for ‘Make In India’

Recently, minister for power, coal, new and renewable energy, Piyush Goyal commented “when foreign countries such as China, USA do not allow Indian companies to bid for power projects in their jurisdiction, why should we allow their companies to participate in setting up of similar projects in India”. The minister was venting out his frustration over companies from those countries denting the prospects of our flagship program ‘Make In India’ by supplying plant and machinery thereby scuttling growth of indigenous industry. He was also lamenting at our own policy which gives a level playing field to global vendors while tendering for government procurement. In India, the procedures of government procurement, as outlined in India’s General Financial Rules [GFR], provide for...
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New visa regime to hit growth, competitiveness of US firms

A senior official of the Trump administration has lambasted three leading Indian information technology companies — Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys and Cognizant Technologies — for resorting to ‘trickery’ for allegedly grabbing most of H1-B visas issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The H1-B visas are issued to foreigners who have ‘theoretical’ and ‘technical’ expertise in specialised areas to work in local (read American) companies for a temporary period. The US issues 85,000 such visas every year — 65,000 hired from abroad and 20,000 from those enrolled in the US universities/colleges. Due to the heavy demand, the USCIS which runs the programme, receives several times more applications than it can grant and uses an electronic lottery to...
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At WTO – India gets platitudes, no permanent solution

At a recent meeting of agriculture committee of the WTO [World Trade Organization] held on March 28, 2017, developed countries lambasted India on its minimum support price [MSP] programs for wheat and other key commodities such as sugarcane and pulses. While, Australia raised concerns over increase in India’s MSP for wheat since 2006, US and EU questioned subsidies on sugarcane, buffer stock of pulses and price support for both rabi and kharif crops. But, there was little movement on ‘permanent solution for legitimizing its food procurement subsidies’, an issue of great concern to India. Ever since, World Trade Agreement [WTA] came into effect in 1995, developed countries have been obfuscating the issues concerning commitments of member countries. While, on one...
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‘PEACE CLAUSE’ THAT BRINGS PROSPERITY

New Delhi should engage proactively with the WTO to ensure that issues of concern to developing countries, primarily related to agriculture, are addressed Roberto Azevedo, Director General of World Trade Organisation (WTO), who was recently in Delhi to explore and understand India’s perspective on issues for taking up in the 11th WTO ministerial scheduled for December 11-14, 2017, stated that “one has to be patient for a permanent solution and asked not to undermine the efficacy of the peace clause”. Azevedo’s exhortation is unmindful of the vulnerabilities of developing countries inherent in the ‘peace clause’. When, the provision itself stands on a slippery foundation, there is impatience. At the 9th ministerial in Bali (December, 2013), developed countries had agreed to...
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