Sunday, Nov 30, 2003
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By Amit Baruah
The Delhi Pradesh BJP president, Madan Lal Khurana, seeking the blessings of the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, at an election meeting at Pitampura on Saturday. Senior party leader, Sahib Singh Verma, looks on.
"This could have disastrous consequences for our future discussions on the international trading regime," Mr. Vajpayee said. "The WTO (World Trade Organisation) is like a chariot pulled by many horses. Unless each horse pulls at the same pace and in the same direction as the others, the chariot will eventually collapse."
The Prime Minister said the carefully-balanced agenda of interests that resulted from hard-fought negotiations and compromises at Doha should not be upset. "We can move forward successfully only at a pace with which all parties are comfortable. This has been the cardinal principle that has guided the E.U. in its integration."
"It is a principle that we in India follow in the coalition I lead, and in the measured pace of our economic reforms... agriculture provides the core livelihood of millions of people from a huge number of developing countries. The decisions we take in the WTO in agriculture will need to respond to this fact, even while they protect the interests of farmers elsewhere."
Mr. Vajpayee said today's Europe was creating waves in world affairs. The increasing weight and voice of the E.U., its steady expansion and consolidation, its strengthening common currency, its new initiatives to integrate its scientific and technical capabilities all these trends compel attention and analysis.
"In the post-Cold War era, India, too, has emerged stronger and more self-confident, with the conviction that we can have an expanding role in world affairs in the coming decades. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether India and Europe can create a more dynamic partnership."
Mr. Vajpayee said there were issues in India-E.U. trade that had to be addressed. "We need to look carefully at the unfortunate reality that non-tariff barriers are gradually rising, even as tariffs are falling in response to globalisation. A range of issues from anti-dumping measures to manufacturing standards need to be looked at with a sense of proportion."
He made it clear that the emotive arguments about migration of jobs to countries like India had missed two basic points. "The first is that this outsourcing is increasing the competitiveness and global reach of European and American companies. The resultant boost to the balance sheets and increased dividend payouts are very much in these countries. The increased profits are also ploughed back into these economies."
"The second point relates to the barriers to free movement of persons. The demographic profile of Europe and America necessarily means that these countries will need the induction of a younger work force from outside in the coming decades.
"If there is a more liberal regime of free movement of businessmen and professionals between India and Europe, this demand can be met within your countries. In the absence of such a liberal regime, outsourcing is inevitable. If people cannot go where the business is, business will eventually come to where the people are."
Referring to India's interest in participating in the E.U.'s Galileo satellite navigation system, the Prime Minister said New Delhi was keen to do this as an equal partner, not as a mere customer. "In this multi-billion Euro project, exploring new frontiers of technology, India's expertise in cost-effective space technologies can bring both technical value and price-competitiveness."
In his speech, the European Commission President, Romano Prodi, argued that the best trade rules were multilateral ones. "The stalled talks at Cancun have stopped us moving forward, just as it looked like we were getting into gear. We all need to lend a hand to push start the Doha process again."
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