- Imported chocolates: a little caution could go a long way
23 December 2004
- Right to Safety-Students as Consumers
18 December 2004
- TRAI Fund to be used for consumer advocacy too: CUTS
10 November 2004
- Trade Liberalisation Alone Will Not Reduce Poverty: Experts
New Delhi, 29 October 2004
- Transparency and implementation is core to achieve sustainability: CUTS
New Delhi, 29 October 2004
- Challenges in Consumer Protection
26 October, 2004
- CUTS call for the strict watch over the safety of joyrides during Pujas
13 October 2004
- Competition Policy and Law: not a luxury but a necessity for developing countries
23 September 2004
- Need to Regulate Cable TV Charges: CUTS Survey
29 September 04
- Implementation of the Common Minimum Programme is a huge concern
17 September 04
- CUTS call for aid to road accident victims first, formalities later
06 September 04
- Consumer group hails National Foreign Trade Policy
31 August 04
- Urge for more proactive South-South cooperation on trade negotiations
19 August 04
- WTO agreements need to be negotiated in the interests of the people of South Asia
18 August 04
- WTO July Package: Too early to uncork the champagne bottle
05 August 04
- CUTS Safety Watch urges National Building Code to be made mandatory
29 July 04
- frural consumers need better protection’
03 July 04
- UNCTAD XI ends with renewed commitment to development
18 June 04
The business of amusement and fun is getting bigger in India. An
“It is a very common phenomenon, that after every accident, the
Roy pointed out that the main cause of deaths and injuries on amusement
Roy demanded that certificates for rides at fairs and carnivals
She also pointed out the need of a competent licencing authority.
Roy informed that very recently the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)
Soumi Home Roy
request to parents:
CUTS while undertaking a research on the issue found that “Choking”
is a common hazard for children. There are numerous incidents of
babies choking on parts like small balls, marbles or lose parts
getting into their noses.
While enquired with parents, complaints about the sharp edges of
toys were reported which local merchandisers often overlook. Toys
that shoot objects are very dangerous and injury from such toys
are very common. A host of such cases are reported regularly to
It has also been found that very often toys are attached with long
strings or cords, which easily gets wrapped around a small child’s
neck and cause strangulation.
Even, it is not safe to play with noise making toys as it can create
a noise level that interferes with children’s learning abilities.
Because of a child’s shorter arm span, toys are often potentially
more dangerous. Children’s ears are more sensitive than adults and
their hearing is easily damaged.
Electric toys also pose risk. Toys with heating elements can result
in burns in younger children, and these toys are not recommended
for small children.
It is often seen that low quality fibres and materials are used
to make toys. Since small kids have a tendency of sucking toys,
this could lead to stomach disorders and other related ailments.
Allergies from toys
are quite a common problem with kids now. Carcinogenic colours are
used to bring the bright look of the toy. But
there is a chance of the paint peeling off and your child swallowing
it. Apart from some reputed manufacturers, others do not use food
grade colouring material for toys meant for a small child.
It may sound shocking but the fact is that most toys and other baby
products in the Indian market are not manufactured following certain
safety standards. The Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) has set standards
for toy safety related to their mechanical and physical forms as
well as toxicity. But the manufacturers are not obliged to adhere
to the BIS guidelines unless they are exporting. The enforcement
of guidelines is yet to be made mandatory for domestic toy manufacturers.
We are into deeper research on this to come out with recommendations
that could become an advocacy tool to pursue BIS in making the standards
for the toys mandatory, so that your children can play safely with
MOCA Would Be a “Catalyst” in Consumer
Movement Says Chawla
Delhi 12 March 2004: Lauding the exemplary
role of non-government organisations in inculcating consumer awareness
and proposing to augment the consumer grievance redressal machinery,
the Secretary in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs (MOCA), Navin
Chawla, today assured an active government involvement in espousing
consumer causes and called for a mass movement to help remove consumer
a book titled “Is it really safe?” at a function organised by CUTS,
a premier consumer rights organisation in the backdrop of World
Consumers Day on March 15, Mr. Chawla told the audience comprising
leading consumer activists and safety experts that the Ministry
of Consumer Affairs would act as a “catalyst in hastening the process
of consumer welfare and would endeavour to involve various schools,
colleges and universities to meet this noble objective.”
the example of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, Mr. Chawla said,
“The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has received a deluge of applications
from hundreds of schools in these states seeking help in setting
up consumer clubs. Steps are being taken to ensure that this enthusiasm
is spread all over India.” He invited CUTS and other NGOs to help
the Ministry in this regard and appreciated their efforts in the
dissemination of consumer-friendly information.
it really safe?” is a compendium of articles on the safety of commonly
used products and services and is aimed at the middle and lower
middle class consumers.
the efforts of CUTS in generating awareness on consumer safety issues,
noted Transport safety expert and Henry Ford Professor for Transportation
Safety at IIT, Dinesh Mohan, called for the need of evolving “efficient
designing and engineering as a tool to guide human behaviour rather
merely sermonising on safety issues”. He buttressed the point by
citing the example of IIT where a speed breaker was provided at
every 80 metres to control the rate of accidents when all other
efforts in that direction had failed.
Ruing the poor road designs that prod people to break the law, Prof
Mohan averred, “redesigning the roads, considering safety aspects,
will go a long way in altering the human behaviour because any degree
of education will not change the long bred habits,”
that “road accidents cause more deaths than any other cause
in 15-50 age group” Mohan stressed that as the year 2004 is
a year of road safety, it is about time that attention was paid
to this important issue.
For The Doha Round Has Not Been Lost: Sir Michael Arthur
17 February 2004: “The British Government is not going to impose
any protectionist measure on outsourcing,” asserted Sir Michael
Arthur, British High Commissioner to India. He was delivering a
public lecture on WTO (World Trade Organisation), which was held
at the HCM Rajasthan Institute of Public Administration (HCM RIPA),
Jaipur on Monday, the 16th February 2004. “Britain is
one of the most open economies in the world, not only in terms of
trade but also for foreign direct investment. It believes that open
economy and FDI bring huge benefits,” he added.
event was organised by “CUTS” International and HCM RIPA. More that
75 participants representing civil society organisations, business
chambers, government bodies, etc attended the lecture. Initiating
the discussions, Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General of “CUTS” International
expressed that the WTO is perhaps the victim of its own success.
According to him, Cancun was a stocktaking exercise and not much
should be made out of its failure. More importantly, the trade community
has to work hard to make the Doha round of negotiations a success
with ‘development’ as its overarching objective.
to Sir Michael, the momentum for the Doha round has not been lost.
In Europe, political consensus on WTO is very high. He welcomed
the emergence of G-20 group of developing countries as a healthy
development in the international trading system. Other than this,
he expressed that in future South-South trade will be an important
element of international trading system. In the same vein, he supported
the emergence of intra-regional free trade arrangements as one way
of taking forward the international trading system. However, he
was not much sure about the efficacy of inter-regional free trade
the so-called Singapore issues of investment, competition policy,
transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation, he
said that more flexibility is required and future negotiations on
these issues, if at all, should be based on the principal of asymmetrical
liberalisation commitments on the part of developing countries.
concluding his lecture, Sir Michael made the following observations:
a) the dispute settlement system of the WTO should not be misused
and/or overused, b) regional trade brings huge peace dividends and
its political importance should not be undermined, and c) the framework
of trade liberalisation is becoming complex, as non-state actors
are getting powerful and involved. In such an emerging situation,
concomitant domestic reforms are necessary for trade to help achieve
better economic growth.
on the lecture, V. S. Vyas, Professor Emeritus of Institute of Development
Studies, Jaipur, expressed that though economic theory tells us
about the virtues of free trade, we need to ponder seriously on
the substantial public opinion that why free trade is not helping
a country’s economic and social development. He cited two reasons
for widespread scepticisms on WTO: a) lack of reciprocity on the
part of many major countries, particularly on issues which are important
for poor countries and b) lack of appreciation about the resilience
of the system.
to him, the main stumbling block to the progress of the WTO is agriculture.
In countries like India, agriculture is indeed existential in nature.
Other than arguing for asymmetrical reciprocity on agriculture,
he urged that the WTO agreement on agriculture should have a food
security box, with provisions to take care of not only the existence
of a huge number of poor and marginal farmers, but also of peoples’
right to food.
K. Zutshi, former Indian Ambassador to the GATT/WTO was the other
discussant. He expressed that the multilateral trade regime is like
a bicycle and if we do not keep moving it will fall. According to
him, in early 1990s, Indian policy with respect to international
trade was inflexible.
investment, he expressed that a multilateral agreement on investment
is like a solution looking for a problem. In any case, almost 95
percent of all restrictions on FDI are in services and the General
Agreement on Trade in Services of the WTO is taking care of them.
Thus, there is no need for investment to be added separately in
the WTO agenda. On transparency in government procurement and trade
facilitation, he said that multilateral agreements on these issues
would help developing countries in the long run. However, before
entering into any multilateral obligations, we need to judge the
implementation burden and dispute settlement mechanism.
urged developed countries to liberalise their labour market under
Mode 4 (temporary movement of workers). This issue has to be looked
in the larger context of globalisation and demographic changes,
in particular in industrialised countries.
presentations were followed by floor discussions. Concerns were
raised about the impact of agricultural liberalisation in India
on oilseeds and dairy sectors. According to many participants, though
Indian agriculture is changing and getting integrated into the global
market, there remain stumbling blocks. Reforms in domestic agriculture
should be carried out in all earnest before making further liberalisation
commitments in the multilateral context.
were also raised about the erosion of trust, particularly among
the poor countries, on the multilateral trade regime under the WTO.
The forum called upon the trade community to devise and implement
confidence-building measures for getting the Doha round of negotiations
back on track.
delivering the concluding address, Arvind Mayaram, Director of HCM
RIPA said that though the WTO is the manifestation of a multilateral
trade regime, its impact is getting increasingly felt at the national
and sub-national levels. In this emerging situation, all stakeholders,
particularly at the sub-national level, should be better equipped
to understand the meaning and implications of the regime, what are
the challenges and how changes can be introduced to reap benefits
out of the system.
on the Quality of FDI: CUTS/UNCTAD Seminar in Geneva
30 January 2004:Countries need to reorient their national economic
development strategies and integrate FDI with these strategies says
CUTS study “Stategising Investment for Development”. The study was
released at Geneva, Switzerland by Karl Sauvant, Chief of the Division
on Investment, Technology & Enterprise Development (DITE), UNCTAD.
It was released on 28 January 2004 during a panel discussion on
“Civil Society Perceptions of FDI” at the Palais des Nations.
one-hour panel discussion was held as part of the final meeting
of the Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS)-implemented two-year
project: Investment for Development (IFD). The project was conducted
in collaboration with UNCTAD and with the support of Department
for International Development (DFID), UK. It was implemented in
seven countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Hungary, India, South Africa,
Tanzania and Zambia.
on the occasion, Sauvant said, “This was the first time that UNCTAD
has worked with an NGO on a project ….. it was a privilege for UNCTAD
to work with CUTS on the IFD project”. Jean-Pierre Lehmann, Director
of the Evian Group and Professor of International Political Economy
in IMD at Lausanne, Switzerland moderated the discussion, which
also included Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS and Freddy
Bob-Jones, Economist, DFID as speakers.
the participants, Mehta highlighted the results of a survey on civil
society perceptions of FDI carried out under the project. The survey
showed that the respondents are highly aware of their own country
experiences and that countries with more positive experiences with
FDI are favourably inclined towards FDI. Further, the survey respondents
considered the benefits of FDI as access to new technologies, management
techniques and competitiveness, while costs as environmentally harmful
technologies and reduction of opportunities for domestic firms.
main project finding is that developing countries in 1990s have
liberalised their investment regimes to attract foreign direct investment
(FDI) with mixed degrees of success. In some cases, high FDI has
not contributed to economic growth and development. The aim of the
countries should be to attract “quality” FDI: foreign investment,
which would contribute positively to economic development.
panel discussion was followed by a day long “International Seminar
on FDI Policies and Regulation” on 30 January at the Palais. The
two events were organised in conjunction with the UNCTAD Commission
on Investment, Technology and Related Financial Issues, Eighth Session,
held between 26 and 30 January. On the issue of linkages between
FDI and Economic Development, it was pointed out that developing
countries should have policy flexibility in the context of WTO commitments
and other international agreements for furthering their own development.
Peter Nunnenkamp of Kiel Institute for World Economics noted that
it is important for developing countries to build local entrepreneurial
experiences of least developed and large emerging economies were
also discussed in the seminar. Speakers pointed out that, while
least developed countries (LDCs) are keen to attract FDI in manufacturing
and other non-traditional areas such as services, their share in
the world trade is less than one percent. Further, the IFD research
shows that the LDCs, which were studied in the project, lack proper
FDI data, which hampers their prospects since most data underreports
their actual FDI. Large emerging economies (LEMs), in contrast,
have been attracting increasingly higher quantity of FDI, as the
latest UNCTAD data has also confirmed. Interestingly, in some LEMs
such as Brazil, this has not produced much benefit for the economic
Szanyi of Budapest University of Economics and Public Administration
talked about Hungary’s experiences with FDI: while the country managed
to attract high FDI between 1990 and 1998, the flows have petered
out in recent years. Now the country needs to review its policies
and national development plan to take into account the changed scenario.
seminar had an interesting discussion on China. James Zhan, Chief
of International Investment Arrangement section of the DITE, UNCTAD
pointed out that the share of FDI stock in gross domestic product
in China is 36 percent. He added that China has managed to attract
FDI in high tech manufacturing and this has benefited its economic
development. Reservations were expressed that China has depressed
its exchange rate to attract FDI or that round tripping of FDI hides
the actual flows into the country. Questions were also raised on
whether there is any crowding out of domestic investment and what
type of linkages exists between foreign and local firms in the country.
The discussion ended with a note of caution that the long-term effect
of FDI in China is uncertain and depends on a number of factors
such as what type of FDI is it attracting.
for Doha Agenda
24 January 2004: “The future of Doha Development
Agenda appears to be quite bleak.” This was the prevailing apprehension
in a seminar, “From Cancun to Hong Kong: Progress Inside or Outside
the WTO?” held in London on January 23, 2004. The seminar was organized
by the London chapter of the India-based research and advocacy
group CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economics & Environment
and the UK-based Consumers’ Association, UK. The focus of the seminar
was to discuss the possibility of salvaging the Doha Agenda before
the forthcoming Hong Kong Ministerial of the WTO in 2005. The participants
in the seminar included experts from academia and civil society
groups and other agencies both from India and the UK.
It was pointed out that many important players
at the WTO including US, Canada, France, Germany, India and South
Africa are going for elections before the Hong Kong Meet. This might
dampen the progress on the Doha Agenda as the countries will reluctant
to take bold decisions, observed Phil Evans of the Consumers’ Association.
Nevertheless getting back onto the track is extremely important
for the global economy. Referring to the debate on the “peace clause”
on agriculture that maybe one way to move the talks forward, observed
Pradeep S Mehta of CUTS.
The problem is likely to be compounded as the
leadership for trade negotiations is going to be changed both in
the US and the EU. It is also true that prior to the Uruguay Round
of trade negotiations, only the US and EU, and to some extent, Japan
were the major players in multilateral trade negotiations. However,
over the years, countries like Brazil, China and India have become
more assertive. This might be good for the international economic
order, but has definitely made the trade negotiations more complicated,
observed Sheila Page of the Overseas Development Institute.
It was pointed out that one of the major players,
the US is not particularly interested in the Doha Round. This might
be due to the fact that the corporate lobby in the US has not shown
much interest. Another major player, the EU, though may be interested,
is not particularly good at negotiations. During the Uruguay Round,
the big agri-business companies, the pharmaceutical companies and
financial companies were deeply involved in the process. But no
such group is active now in the US, observed Simon Evenett of the
Oxford University and Brookings Institution.
Concerns were expressed at the growing engagement
in regional and bilateral trade agreements which might not be good
for the multilateral system. However, it was also viewed that regional
arrangements can work as building blocks rather than stumbling blocks,
but of course if their proliferation remains within a limit and
does not create a “spaghetti bowl” like situation.
was also viewed that the failure at Cancun should not be considered
as the failure of the WTO as an institution. At Cancun, there was
an overloaded agenda, especially when many of the Uruguay Round
issues are yet to be settled. The best way out seems to be going
slow or even dropping some of the Singapore Issues. However, it
was pointed out that the EU may not be so keen on the Singapore
Issues as it appears. Their insistence on these may be a tactical
ploy to block any progress on agriculture, observed L Alan Winters
of the University of Sussex. The future of the Doha Agenda thus
depends to a large extent on the EU. The Doha Agenda can be salvaged
before. However, the question remains, will it be?
Role for NGOs in Economic Regulation
22 December 2003:“The process of liberalisation did not diminish
the role of economic governance in the country as unregulated corporations
can harm people. The biggest challenge therefore is to set up independent
regulatory institutions, which can withstand pressures from political
and business lobbies. The NGOs can play an important role in the
process. They can raise awareness and build pressure to enhance
accountability of the regulators,” observed D. R. Mehta, former
chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the capital
market regulator of the country. He was speaking at a national seminar
on “The Role of the Civil Society Organisations in Economic Governance”
held at Jaipur on 19th – 21st December 2003.
The seminar was organised by the city-based research and advocacy
group, Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS). The seminar was
attended by the representatives of several civil society groups
from different parts of the country. A number of experts on regulatory
issues spoke in the seminar.
Speaking at the occasion, Pradeep S Mehta, the secretary general
of CUTS, emphasised that if India needs to realise the goal of a
developed country living standard by the year 2020, we need to look
beyond the eight percent growth target. This is difficult but not
impossible and the third sector, i.e., the NGOs can significantly
contribute to the achievement of the goal.
The seminar participants were unanimous in recognising the importance
of efficient and independent regulators. However, concerns were
expressed that the regulatory authorities have become roosting grounds
for retired bureaucrats and judges which is harming the interest
of the country. Referring to the controversy on the issue of the
appointments at the Competition Commission of India, it was lamented
that the issue has been made to appear like a turf war between the
bureaucrats and the judges while the real issue that is at stake
is ignored. Regulators need to be adequately trained and appropriately
oriented and whether they came from bureaucracy, judiciary or some
other background is totally irrelevant.
Grave concerns were expressed on the state of health and education
in the country as well as the state of infrastructure, particularly
electricity, roads and water. It was observed that India is one
of the most vulnerable countries, as 90 percent of the people do
not have any protection against health risks. Moreover, contrary
to popular belief, an overwhelming majority relies on private health
providers, who remain unregulated exposing the consumers to the
menaces like over-medication and irrational drug use, unnecessary
testing and surgical operations, prescription of more expensive
An urgent need for far reaching reforms in electricity with effective
regulatory mechanism that puts consumer interests at par with producers’
interest was felt necessary. However, on water, the participants
were not in favour of large-scale privatisation or sweeping changes,
even though some reforms were felt to be necessary.
Good governance was considered to be the key. We need to redefine
the role of government and the attributes of good governance. “India
maintains one of the most expensive governance system for the size
of its GDP. What we spend in maintaining the system is probably
far too more than what we get from it”, observed Prof. Vijay Shankar
Vyas, who delivered the closing address in the seminar.
Walking Away From The Pandora’s Box
Delhi 17 December 2003: The Government opened a Pandora’s box
of problems and tip-toed away when the going got tough, feel consumer
organisations. Even as recently as the 8th December, Rajan
R Gandhi, Director of the Consumer Unity & Trust Society, had
in a Fax to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry pleaded with
the Government to intervene and come out with a “no-nonsense” statement
placing consumer welfare above the machinations of the Cable TV
organisations are not opposed to CAS per se, says Gandhi.
However, they insist that steps be taken by the Government to actually
demonstrate its concern for consumers, rather than merely paying
lip service. Such steps would include the establishment of
at least a pro tem regulatory body which would address the questions
of poor service, arbitrary price hikes and lawless behaviour by
Cable TV service providers. The regulatory body should also
look at the bundled pricing policy of Cable TV channels which, under
the guise of offering “bouquets”, forced a consumer into paying
for channels he had no interest in.
were basic issues involved, too, he said. In the first place,
it was not clear why the consumer had to pay for a set-top box.
The row over revenue-sharing was between the Cable TV service providers
and it is they who should pay for it. Secondly, “bouquets”
were surely a restrictive trade practice which should not per permitted.
The Government had initially made some noises about setting a cap
on the pricing of individual channels versus “bouquets”, but had
not progressed this idea any further. Thirdly, Cable TV operators
were currently transmitting 30 (out of a possible 85) Free-To-Air
channels which their customers had little interest in watching,
thus forcing them into buying STBs even for the purpose of watching
situation which has emerged over the last few days in Delhi is that
the total outlay of the consumer stands every possibility of being
higher than ever before. Surely this is not what the Government,
even the PMO, meant when it talked about Consumer interests coming
first, said Gandhi. The State Governments of West Bengal and
Maharashtra would do well to learn from the Delhi example, he felt,
since Kolkata and Mumbai are the next to fall under the CAS axe.
several months, it has been clear that without competition or some
sort of independent regulatory body, the Cable TV industry was going
to blatantly disregard the interests of its own customers by exercising
the unhindered monopoly rights that it has. CUTS and other
consumer organisations had repeatedly drawn the attention of the
Government to this probability, but to no avail.
the absence of Government action the only near-term solution, Gandhi
felt, was a complete boycott of pay-to-see Cable TV channels.
When advertisers saw that consumers were not watching pay channels,
they would withdraw commercials from the channels and broadcasters,
their MSOs and Cable TV operators would be brought to heel.
Society Urged To Advocate For The Betterment
Of The Indian Informal Sector
Delhi 24 September 2003: “Globalisation is a fact, not an option
and a deeper integration of the production process is significantly
affecting the informal, unorganised sector,” said Kirit Parikh,
Professor Emeritus of Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research,
Mumbai and a member of the Prime Minister of India’s Economic Advisory
Council. He was delivering the keynote address in a national dialogue
on “Globalisation and the Informal Sector”. The meeting was organised
by Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), Jaipur, an international
non-governmental organisation working on issues of international
trade and development. It was organised with the support of Oxfam
GB in India, a development agency working in the country for over
representing non-governmental organisations, fair trade movement,
women’s groups, producer’s groups, labour interests from different
parts of the country took part in two-days deliberations covering
issues impacting the Indian informal sector. Welcoming the participants,
Rajan Gandhi, Director of CUTS Delhi Resource Centre expressed hope
that the advocacy points, which would come out of the meeting, will
help NGOs and other bodies to take forward the concerns of the informal
sector, in particular on livelihood issues in the face of changing
domestic and global economic scenarios.
Verma, Policy Advisor of Oxfam GB in India argued that in this era
of globalisation and economic liberalisation one of the most significant
changes are taking place in commodity prices. He pointed out that
in the decade of 1990s prices of many agricultural commodities,
like coffee, cotton, came down significantly. Along with shift in
cropping pattern from food to cash crops, these changes have impacted
the livelihoods of many poor farmers. The advent of a rules-based
trade regime under the World Trade Organisation has not resulted
in any significant positive impact on the lives of the poor. In
fact, Oxfam International’s Make Trade Fair campaign has come out
with analysis showing how trade rules are being rigged to the detriment
of the poor.
this context non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders
have very important roles to play in policy advocacy through generating
information from the grassroots. This was expressed by Bipul Chatterjee,
Director of CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economics and Environment,
Jaipur. He provided an overview of the project “Globalisation, Economic
Liberalisation and the Indian Informal Sector” and urged for information-based
policy advocacy at various levels, involving different stakeholders
for the Indian informal sector to play a positive role in the process
of globalisation. The project has taken into account the challenges
and opportunities that three sectors are facing: non-timber forest
products, handlooms, and handicrafts.
participants were of the opinion that globalisation is not a threat,
but an opportunity in terms of expanding markets. However, many
have urged the government that in order to avail the opportunities,
it is important that they are allowed to operate under an enabling
policy environment. The government’s role should be to regulate
policy implementation and provide means for social safety nets for
the poor. It was pointed out that even the poorest of the poor have
considerable assets, intellectual or otherwise, and all they require
are right policies to better utilise their skills and knowledge.
Non-governmental organisations, the fair trade movement and other
stakeholders should facilitate the process of skills upliftment,
generation of new markets, marketing of products, etc.
on globalisation and labour issues, N. P. Samy of NCL, Hyderabad
argued that the bottom of the economic pyramid is being crowded
with more and more people getting precipitated downwards, increasing
the ranks of agricultural labourers, construction workers, and other
informal sector workers. On issues that women are facing in the
era of globalisation, Roopa Mehta of SASHA, Calcutta said that empowerment
of women entrepreneurs is the key to effectively run economic activities.
It is important that efforts should be made to protect indigenous
designs, motifs, knowledge and skills.
the linkages between international trade and the informal sector,
P. M. Mathew of ISED, Cochin argued for more debates on the political
economic aspects of public policy designed for the sector. The debate
should focus on institutional structure and policy instruments required
for the Indian informal sector to be more competitive in this globalising
at the closing session, Anand Das, Programme Coordinator (Market
Access) of Oxfam GB in India mentioned that the aim of the project
was to get multiple stakeholders into dialogues platforms to discuss
and debate issues that the Indian informal sector is facing. He
expressed the need to introduce some changes in the Unorganised
Labour Bill, which has been introduced in the parliament. In particular,
the Bill should have sections on working conditions, terms of employment,
and code of conduct for the informal sector, he argued.
the valedictory address, Veena Jha, Coordinator of the United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development said: “In the decade of 1990s,
informal sector has contributed significantly towards asset building,
which is an important impetus for the Indian economy.” UNCTAD has
done a study analysing the impact of globalisation on the informal
sector in South Asia. The study shows that there is significant
positive impact on employment generation in export-oriented sectors.
The informal sector has also contributed towards improving the competitiveness
of the economy. Therefore, it is time to look into the opportunities
that globalisation can offer for strengthening the contribution
that this sector can make towards more equitable development of
the Indian economy.
Negotiations Are About To Start At Cancun
13 September 2003: Less than 30 hours are left for the official
closing of Cancun Ministerial and so far the Ministers have virtually
made no headway. All five facilitators after conducting open-ended
meetings with member countries have submitted their draft texts
to the Mexican foreign minister Luis Ernesto Derbez, chairman of
the Conference. Now it is the turn of the chairman to act on these
texts and come out with an updated draft ministerial text. The “real
negotiations” will start thereafter.
major problem confronted by the facilitators and the chairman is
that the majority of the members are still holding on to their long
held Geneva position. George Yeo, Singapore’s trade minister and
the facilitator on agriculture, has pleaded with major agricultural
producers to put aside domestic politics for the sake of developing
countries. He urged rich nations to end export subsidies on agriculture
and be more generous to poor countries.
and as expected, Lamy seemed quite tough on agriculture. In a briefing
on 12th afternoon he commented on the G-21 proposal by saying: “My
experience is that alliances, to be politically effective, have
to have a solid ideology on which they base their proposals.” He
expressed his disapproval in particular with India and Brazil being
a part of the same alliance. India and Brazil are in totally different
worlds. This is not to say, he clearly stated, that alliances such
as these cannot operate efficiently or that they are not useful.
However, agriculture has its specificities and India and Brazil
have very conflicting interests. US trade representative Robert
Zoellick, according to another news report, is known to have asked
the G-21 members “if they were ready to offer any concessions in
exchange for a cut in domestic support and export subsidies on farm
Singapore issues, Canadian trade minister Pierre Pettigrew (facilitator
on these issues) had a series of meetings with other ministers.
A substantial number of delegates believed that there was no ‘explicit
consensus’ among members on these issues, hence it was not possible
to launch negotiations at this Ministerial. One participant in the
Working Group described the state of issues as ‘Geneva by the sea’.
Pascal Lamy is clear on EU’s position. In a briefing with NGOs,
when intervened by a NGO representative on which issue he would
select, other than investment, if there were place to begin negotiations
on only two of the Singapore issues. To this he responded: “We don’t
have to choose. My mandate is to keep them bundled. No unbundling.”
investment, an NGO representative asked the reasons why he thought
that investors’ responsibility should not be a part of a potential
multilateral agreement on investment. He responded by saying that
investors’ responsibility was meant to be dealt in other fora such
as the OECD, referring to the existing OECD’s Code of Conduct. Bringing
it under the WTO framework would thus not be advisable. Lamy admitted
that some developing countries have problems with the Singapore
issues. But “others don’t. Some have more problems than the others.
Some others are in favour of some of the issues and against the
others.” What he did not appreciate was the attitude “I don’t want
this if you want it” that some developing countries have the tendency
to adopt. “I have my answers,” he said, to the issues of policy
scope, technical assistance etc which are often cited as the ‘negatives’
of the Singapore issues.
Economic Case For An Investment Agreement:
12 September 2003: “There is no economic case for an agreement
on investment,” said Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS
and a leading expert on WTO issues. “An effort by the rich countries
under the OECD in 1995-1998 had also flopped, thus India’s
strong opposition on investment makes eminent sense. This position
is being backed by nearly 40 countries, and surprisingly by the
US also. It needs to be buried forever at Cancun”.
to a recent study by CUTS and University of Sussex under a project:
EU-India Network on Trade and Development (EINTAD: Bridging the
Differences-Analyses of Five Issues of the WTO Agenda which is being
released at Cancun), it established that an investment agreement
cannot enhance capital flows and will lock in policy spaces of
countries, which they can ill afford.
study was released yesterday by Dr. A. C. Muthaiah, President of
the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce (FICCI) at a workshop
on “Standards & Market Access” organised by CUTS alongwith FICCI,
Consumers Association of UK etc. The CUTS-Sussex University EINTAD
Study is jointly edited by Professor L. Alan Winters of Sussex and
Mehta of CUTS.
investment paper in the study has been done Professors Peter Nunnenkamp
of Kiel Institute of World Economics and Manoj Pant of Jawaharlal
Nehru University, New Delhi. Other four topics are competition policy,
antidumping, textiles and clothing and movement of natural persons.
Each of these papers are co-authored by eminent reseachers from
Europe and India.
to the study, regulation under GATS can address the apprehensions
of both developed and developing countries. While developing countries
fear “brain drain”, developed countries are worried about illegal
immigration and temporary migration turning into permanent one.
These are serious problems, which the negotations should address.
Proposals for a GATS Visa etc should be taken up in full earnest.
draft ministerial statement notes that the negotiations shall give
special attention to sectors and modes of supply of export interest
to developing countries, but does not explicitly state that concessions
should include better market access for temporary workers under
Mode-4. This limitation reflects the US intransigence against Mode-4.
should mould a Cairns-type alliance with about 50 developing countries
having a similar interest and get a better text in the final ministerial
declaration. We also have another problem on Mode-1 on export supply
such as business process outsourcing and call centres, where protectionist
pressures in the west are rearing their ugly head, which needs to
be tackled headlong at Cancun”, Mehta added.
a new and modern competition law, India should not have any problem
with a multilateral framework on competition with a peer review
mechanism rather than the more onerous WTO dispute settlement provisions.
The CUTS-Sussex University EINTAD study also shows that this will
not be such a problem.
Support Swelling, EU Still Clueless
11 September 2003: Agriculture continues to hog the headlines
here and any agreement appears as elusive as it was when the ministerial
began. The matter continues to agitate those outside the hallowed
portals of the convention centre. Farmers groups continued their
agitation few miles away charged by the sad incident of a Korean
farm leader committing hara-kiri. The farmer: Lee Kyung-hae climbed the high security fence waving “WTO
kills Farmers”, took out a knife and stabbed himself in the chest.
Incidentally, he was the same farmer who had camped outside the
WTO building in Geneva a few months ago asking for exclusion of
agriculture from the WTO.
death must be in vain. The two groups–with a large silent majority—continue
to hold hardline positions. The G-21 alliance (comprising of countries
like Brazil, India and China) is holding on, with the other party:
the EU trying hard to break this alliance. That is the crux of the
proceedings that dominated discussions at the WTO Ministerial Conference
in Cancun on September 11. There is a feeling among the EU officials
that India is a difficult nut to crack. A strategy to separate Brazil
from India may be well on their cards. That is why they have primarily
identified Brazil as the leader of G-21 rather than India. Further,
developed countries have spotted some clear differences between
the two big developing countries – Brazil and India – on contentious
a leading farm exporter and member of the Cairns group of countries
is strongly advocating for total liberalization of agriculture that
includes tariff reductions and complete phasing out of subsidies
by rich countries. On the other hand, India is mainly interested
in the elimination of subsidies and not the reduction of tariffs,
as it itself maintains relatively high tariffs rates to shield her
farmers. Another soft target is Argentina, which owes billions of
dollars to the International Monetary Fund.
an update on the day’s happenings at the Ministerial, Franz Fischler,
the EU Agriculture Commissioner, in a briefing with NGO representatives,
said that the meeting this afternoon with the facilitator of the
Agriculture group was the starting point of the real negotiations
discussions lasted over two hours where the G-21 and the EU presented
their respective positions. Fischler commented that the G-21 countries
in their proposal were demanding reforms in the Blue Box (elimination
of blue box subsidies), Green Box measures (capping and strict criterion)
and Amber Box (setting of higher targets and ambitious timelines
for trade distorting subsidies. According to him, the fact that
they were discussing green box measures, besides blue box and amber
box makes their proposal flawed. The EU’s position, he said is that
“the Green box indicates non-trade distorting subsidies and the
WTO is only concerned with trade distorting subsidies, so why should
we discuss Green box measures at all”. The risk he said was that
discussing this will block discussions on other sectors that need
market access, Fischler said, the G-21 was asking for a different
approach and we, the EU think “it will be risky to have 2 WTOs,
one for developed countries and one for developing countries”. However,
it is clear that we, the EU, should do more for developing countries
and we are prepared to do more than compared to the past. In this
context he also said that one should not underestimate the importance
of South-South trade in agriculture. If you liberalize agricultural
trade, then 80 % of the benefits of this liberalization will come
from greater trade between developing countries.
Fischler clearly stated that the EU is offering to discuss a list
of products of interest to developing countries and in relation
to that the complete phasing out of the subsidies associated with
Fischler, “It is a matter of fact that since the 1993 agricultural
reforms in the EU until today, there has been a reduction of more
than 70 per cent in the trade distorting subsidies of the EU”.
He emphasised that in principle, the EU is moving forward
but we don’t see moves in other parts of the developed world.
This, of course, was a clear indication towards the stubbornness
of the US.
added that the EU feels committed to help poor countries get the
chance to increase their agricultural exports. However large agricultural
exporters such as Brazil should not ‘cash in’ on benefits to the
poor and disadvantaged developing countries.
regard to the cotton subsidy issue, when interrogated by somebody
from the audience has to why the EU has not made a commitment now,
but is waiting for autumn to announce a reform, Fischler said that
the EU has planned to decide on a reform proposal by next week.
So, he said, we are not delaying things.
five facilitators who were entrusted with the job of informal consultations
started work today. However, there is no significant breakthrough
on any of the issues so far. Most of the Members have still not
gone beyond their Geneva position. Members have stated their initial
position on non-agricultural market access and special & differential
treatment (S&DT). On non agricultural market access, members
want to start work on two issues: formula for tariff reduction and
sectoral tariff component (Para 3 and 6 of Annex B, Cancun Draft
Ministerial Declaration). On S & DT, Pakistan has proposed a
framework agreement. India has argued for the immediate adoption
of 24 issues mentioned in Annex C of Cancun Draft Ministerial Declaration,
related to S &DT.
on new issues, not much discussion took place. In the meanwhile,
India is trying to form yet another formidable alliance comprising
of countries like China, to oppose all the Singapore issues. How
far she will succeed, will depend on the movement on agriculture.
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