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'WTO is close to solution, thanks to strong leadership in India’

  • Written by Dimpitha
New Delhi: Strong leadership in India and substantive arguments led to resolution of differences on food security related issues and paved the way for ending the impasse at the WTO soon, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today. India's voice is not just heard but taken seriously at global institutions like the IMF, the World Bank and G-20, she added. Talking about WTO, she said in July members labelled India as the deal breaker, but thanks to the country's strong leadership New Delhi managed to convince the multilateral body about its legitimate demand.

"...we wouldn't have reached a stage where we can say that we are closer to a solution and we probably will get over the impasse. It's only because you were able to as a country stand up with strength, argue with substance and negotiate with equal rights," she said at the World Hindu Economic Forum. "...because of the kind of leadership with which we were able to project India, that is a very big difference," she added.

"It leads you to be taken seriously...India is now not just seeking high table, it is being invited to the high table only because the sagging European and North American economies depend on emerging economies like India for solutions to revive their economies," she said. Recently India and the US successfully resolved their differences relating to the issue of public stock holding for food security purposes, paving the way for a breakthrough to end the three-month long stalemate at WTO.

As per the agreement, the US will support India's proposal at WTO that 'peace clause', crucial for uninterrupted implementation of India's food security programme, should continue indefinitely till a permanent solution is found. This will enable India to continue procurement and stocking of foodgrain for distribution to poor under its food security programme without attracting any kind of action from WTO members even if it breaches the 10 per cent subsidy cap as prescribed by WTO. As per the WTO Bali agreement, the peace clause was to continue till 2017 only.

The differences on the public stock holding of foodgrains between the developed countries led by the US and developing nations including India led to impasse over ratification of the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) at Geneva in July. Sitharaman said that developed countries were blaming India for the impasse at the WTO, but India convinced them about its legitimate demand.

Talking about government's steps to boost country's economic growth, the Minister said several measures were being taken to ensure healthy growth rate. The government is taking steps like simplifying tax regime of the country and resolving credit related issues of MSMEs.

On intellectual property rights issue, Sitharaman said India's IPR laws are compliant with global norms and are very progressive. "India has set standards and best quality in several sectors like pharmaceutical, automobile and engineering. Our laws are far more robust then any other. In Africa, people are looking at us for generic drugs," she said. The US has raised concerns over India's IPR laws saying it discriminates against American companies. The Minister said that the government is also trying to simplify tax structure.

"We are trying to do everything to simply it (tax structure) so that it becomes user friendly and make it less adversarial and ensures that family is not disincentivised ...so we are trying to see how best we nurture family and ensure that the tax structure is not going to be a disincentive for being in a family," she said.

"We are working to make it simple and effortless." When asked about concerns of the industry over the Companies Act, the minister said since June, they have held meeting with stakeholders on the matter and about 40 notifications have been issued. "...some are pending in Parliament because they have to be notified...once we comply with the parliamentary notification regulation related norms, a few more changes will also get notified," she said.


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