Shri Narendra Modi
Shri Narendra Modi
Prime Minister of India
International Trade
Preparations for the 1999 Ministerial Conference – General Council Special Session – 25 February 1999 – Communication from India
WT/GC/W/150 3 March 1999


The following statement made by India at the Special Session of the General Council on 25 February 1999 is being circulated at the request of that delegation.

  • At the outset, my delegation would like to wish you all the best in the discharge of your responsibilities in your new assignment as Chairman of the General Council. We are grateful to you for the paper you have circulated with regard to organisation of future work and also for your initial remarks. I would also like to associate my delegation with the remarks made earlier by the Ambassador of Egypt, on the recently held G15 meeting. I would also like to thank Ambassador Weekes for his statement on the work done in the General Council since the September Special Session. As Members would recall we had in the September session of the General Council agreed to hold four inter-sessional informal meetings so as to start the preparatory work entrusted to the General Council by the Geneva Ministerial Declaration. During the course of these meetings we got an opportunity to look at the work programme referred to in paragraph 9 of the Geneva Declaration.
  • During these inter-sessional meetings, my delegation had made a number of statements and had also circulated a number of papers, detailing our position, and putting up specific proposals for Members’ consideration. Our paper highlighting the concerns that we have regarding the implementation of provisions relating to differential and more favourable treatment of developing countries in various WTO Agreements, and the statement that we made in this regard in the October Meeting have been circulated to Members as document nos. WT/GC/W/108 dated 13.11.98 and WT/GC/W/114 dated 18.11.98 respectively. The statements made by us in the November inter-sessional meetings on paragraphs 9(a)(ii) and 9(a)(iii), that is on mandated negotiations and the future work provided for under other existing Agreements were distributed to Members, and will shortly be circulated as formal documents. In the third inter-sessional meeting of the General Council, apart from our statement relating to the concerns of LDCs, we also submitted two papers on ‘Unilateral Trade Measures by States’ and on ‘Implementation of the Agreement on Implementation of Article VII of GATT 1994’. These have since been circulated as document nos. WT/GC/W/123 and WT/GC/W/124, both dated 16.12.98, respectively. Our views on paragraph 9(b) of the GMD, on the preparations for the 1999 Ministerial Conference, expressed in the January inter-sessional meeting have been circulated as document no. WT/GC/W/141 dated 29.1.99. Finally, our proposals on some key issues relating to intellectual property, again with reference to paragraph 9(b) of the GMD, put forward in the February inter-sessional meeting, has been circulated as document no. WT/GC/W/147 dated 18.2.99.
  • We agree that the inter-sessional meetings held so far have provided an opportunity for all Members to place their views/concerns/suggestions with regard to the various elements of the work programme within paragraph 9 of the Geneva Ministerial Declaration on the table. However, as stated by others we also feel that the first phase of work which we are now in the process of completing, has been only a preliminary phase and that it is now important to move into a more interactive and proposal driven phase. It is our view that this second phase of work would be extremely crucial since it would provide an opportunity to now table specific proposals and thus enable other Members to have an idea about the expectations of each Member, with regard to the outcome of the Third Ministerial Conference. For this it would be important that proposals which are put forward by Members are totally unambiguous and clearly spell out their intention and objective. However, in order to ensure that there are no last minute surprises we would like to support those delegations which have spoken in favour of having an indicative deadline, for submission of proposals by Members. We also feel that Members should, as far as possible, submit their proposals before the summer break. Smaller delegations with limited resources, would not be able to appropriately respond, if proposals continue to be made up to the eleventh hour.
  • We have had a look at your proposal regarding the structure and focus of the future work. My delegation feels that the mix of formal and informal meetings, which we adopted for the first phase of work, was conducive to generating proposals and stimulating discussions on the various issues, and hence we favour a continuation of this approach. However, we would like the current practice of statements/proposals made during informal meeting being circulated as official documents at the request of the concerned delegation, to continue. We do however have one concern on the tentative schedule of meetings suggested by you. We feel that it would be very difficult for delegations like mine to devote 4 full days each month to this work, specially since the work in the other bodies of the WTO is expected to go on as usual. We had specifically stated in the informal meeting of the General Council held on 12.2.99 that while we are not averse to the scheduling of one formal and one informal meeting each month, we would like these meetings to be restricted to a total of 2 working days each month. Needless to say, if at some stage of the second phase, Members were to feel that based on the number of proposals put forward, additional time was needed, we would be willing to consider increasing the pace of work at that stage. We would therefore like to suggest that at least in the initial part of this phase of work, the formal and informal meetings should be restricted to one day each.
  • Coming now to the structure of the work, we agree that the work should be structured around paragraph 9 of the Geneva Ministerial Declaration. As Members are aware, this is the approach that we adopted during the first round of inter-sessional meetings. We would however like to join Egypt and some other delegations who have stressed the importance of separately devoting time to paragraph 8 of the Geneva Ministerial Declaration. We also feel that this is an extremely important issue which needs to be addressed appropriately. Further, as stated by us earlier, we feel that paragraph 9 has an in-built hierarchy and prioritisation of issue. Our Ministers, when they met in Geneva, clearly recognised the need of a priori addressing implementational issues. This is the reason that the first sub paragraph of paragraph 9 was devoted to the recommendations relating to the implementation of existing Agreements and Decisions. In fact, my delegation strongly feels that implementational concerns in the S&D area should be taken up on a stand-alone basis and addressed across the board, so as to cover all Agreements.
  • Members would recall that my delegation, before the GMC, during the GMC, and subsequently in the current preparatory process, has repeatedly highlighted the implementational concerns and problems of countries like mine so that we may able to create an image of the WTO as not merely an organization negotiating commitments in more and more areas, but also as an organization which is sensitive to the concerns of developing countries with regard to implementation of commitments already undertaken. We have repeatedly explained that implementational concerns and problems can be divided into two broad categories. Under the first category we can include the problems being actually experienced while implementing some of the Agreements. These problems were not foreseen while negotiating and signing the concerned Agreements. The second category of problems and concerns arise out of non-realization by developing countries by and large, of benefits expected to accrue from some of the Agreements. It is a matter of regret to us that in spite of repeated explanations given by us as to what we perceive as implementation concerns, some delegations have chosen to ignore our explanation and in some cases have even tried to misrepresent our explanation. Some of our trading partners, while seeming to agree with the importance of looking at the implementation issues, have tended to argue that the only subject for consideration is whether all the Agreements are being implemented fully and have hinted that even in those cases where developing countries have transition periods to implement some of the Agreements, these countries (that is developing countries) should explain to their developed country partners the steps taken by them to implement their commitments on the due date. We are afraid this is not what we mean by implementational concerns and problems. Some other trading partners are trying to suggest that by highlighting implementational issues and concerns we are trying to unravel the Agreements and thereby are trying to upset the balance of rights and obligations contained in the UR Agreements. We have repeatedly pointed out that what we are seeking is merely the removal of the asymmetries and distortions in the Agreements by providing meaning and content to the S&D provisions and achievement of the objectives set out in the Preamble of the Marrakesh Agreement. We would also like to point out that it is inappropriate to dismiss implementational issues and concerns as a matter for technical assistance. We have repeatedly highlighted the fact that the concerns raised by us cannot be solved by simply organizing seminars and training classes. There are some who seem to argue that “implementation” and “development” are sought to be made synonymous by us. In response I can only say that if the WTO Agreements do not contribute to the development of the less fortunate Members, these Agreements are irrelevant for them. We find that there are subtle attempts to link implementation to issues like policy environment, good governance etc. However, these attempts cannot succeed in masking the real issues. On this subject I would like to make a final point. After all, the WTO is a highly visible organisation and almost all the governments are run by elected representatives. My system will not be able to appreciate the argument being given by some of our trading partners that it is almost a blasphemy if, in terms of the GMD, we place our concerns on implementation before this body in an absolutely transparent fashion, seeking a consensus based solution, while on the other hand it is a holy act on the part of a developed country Member to impose a 1000% tariff on the import of an agricultural product on the ground that such a course of action does not violate any provision of any Agreement.
  • Similarly, when developed countries continue to provide domestic support to certain sectors much above the de-minimus value prescribed for developing countries, we are told that it is entirely legal and within the four corners of the concerned Agreements. On the other hand, when developing countries complain that there are certain asymmetries and imbalances in some of the Agreements, for instance as in TRIMs, the provisions of which have not permitted developing countries to take steps to foster domestic industrial growth, or the provisions of TRIPS which have not led to the expected transfer of technology, then developing countries are told that they are trying to unravel already negotiated Agreements. This is extremely unfortunate, and let me be candid in stating that if implementational issues are not addressed, then developing countries would feel extremely apprehensive and reluctant in taking on new commitments.
  • We have often heard Members state that the UR outcome provides a correct balance of rights and obligations and that any endeavour to change certain provisions of the Agreements, whether to address implementational concerns or otherwise, would disturb the internal balance of these rights and obligations. Let me state that my delegation believes that the negotiations already mandated within the Agreements are also very much a part of this internal balance of rights and obligations. Thus we find it surprising and unacceptable when certain delegations state that in order for them to constructively engage in negotiations relating to liberalisation of the agricultural sector, a mandated area of negotiations, they must get satisfaction, or a quid pro accrual of benefits in new areas like industrial tariffs, investment etc. Negotiations in agriculture and services are already mandated and a part of the overall balance. Thus there is no justification whatsoever of asking Members to accept new areas for negotiations in order to enable Members with strong agricultural protectionist policies to engage themselves in the mandated negotiations in Agriculture.
  • Members would recall that some developing countries, including India, showed enormous flexibility in agreeing at Singapore to launch a study programme on certain new subjects like trade and investment, trade and competition policy, trade facilitation, and transparency in government procurement. The Ministerial Declaration very clearly indicates the contours and understanding on the basis of which the study programme is to be undertaken. We have been participating constructively in studying these issues. Any effort to prematurely bring these issues to the negotiating mode without enabling developing countries to fully understand all the implications involved would be tantamount to going back on a commitment given through a Ministerial Declaration.
  • While on this issue, let me also state that the only agreed agenda items as far as the next Ministerial Conference is concerned are those which have been included in paragraphs 9 (a) and 9(c) of the GMD, that is to say implementational issues, mandated reviews and negotiations and future work already provided for under other existing Agreements and Decisions taken at Marrakesh as well as the follow-up to the High Level Meeting on LDCs. All other issues have to be considered by the Members and their inclusion in the next round of negotiations would depend on whether consensus develops on these issues. Hence, we would like to reiterate our position that we are only committed to paragraphs 9(a) and 9(c) issues as far as the next Ministerial Conference is concerned.
  • We have seen some concern expressed by some Members about the ability of developing countries to participate effectively in the dispute settlement system. It is obvious that almost all the developing countries have been mostly at the receiving end. We feel prevention is better than cure. We suggest that developing countries should be helped in the following two ways, so that they can avoid, by and large, disputes being raised against them.
    Developing countries should not be coerced or seduced into accepting commitments which, it is obvious, they cannot fulfil in their current state of development.
  • When Agreements are negotiated and drafted, developed countries should not hide their real intentions by resorting to constructive ambiguity. If the Agreements are written in clear and simple language, then the scope for disputes would be significantly reduced.
  • We have in this context heard a number of Members talk of a comprehensive round of negotiations. One of the reasons which is invariably adduced for such a comprehensive round is that the more the issues and sectors which could be put into this basket, the better would be the balance of rights and obligations that developing countries would be able to achieve. This is a logic which we neither understand nor are willing to accept. Firstly, it is worth noting that developing countries, who it is stated would benefit most from the round being made comprehensive, were not responsible for bringing in 9 (b) or 9(d) issues, at least initially, though some of them might have subsequently agreed to some of the subjects. It is the developed countries which have by and large made all the suggestions for the inclusion of additional issues and sectors. Secondly, if simply having a large number of issues on the negotiating table was to be beneficial to developing countries, then the Uruguay Round should have by now provided the maximum trade benefits to developing countries. These are benefits that we have at least not perceived or received. This has obviously not happened and in fact developing countries see a large number of the UR Agreements as being tilted against them. In our view, these are points which need to be closely reflected upon, before giving the argument that a larger round by its very definition and scope would benefit developing countries.