A message on labour linkage for Mr. Zoellick and Mr. Maran

Trade in services: Needed, a balanced and proactive approach
The Financial Express, December 06, 2001

In a large international organisation like the World Trade Organisation (WTO), in spite of the “one country, one vote” principle, most of the countries do not get what they deserve. But, for sure they get what they negotiate. India did experience the same when it secured major gains in several areas of the hard-fought agenda of the recently concluded Fourth Ministerial Conference of the WTO.

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India has no reason to be afraid of ‘competition’?

The Financial Express, November 28, 2001

In the context of a multilateral competition policy, the Doha Ministerial Declaration notes: “Recognising the case for a multilateral framework to enhance the contribution of competition policy to international trade and development… we agree that negotiations will take place after the Fifth Session of the Ministerial Conference on the basis of a decision to be taken, by explicit consensus, at that Session on modalities of negotiations”.

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The trade-labour linkage is not ‘dead’ as yet

The Financial Express, November 27, 2001

Demanding the inclusion of social issues in WTO implies opening the window for never-ending non-trade issues including gender, human rights and social development, all of which fall into the purview of sustainable development. This contamination of trade with non-trade issues certainly does not promote the trade agenda. Rather, this sort of linkage has immense potential for abuse as a protectionist device of the North. The poor countries, therefore, argue that, it would help only a few rich countries, not global welfare. Most of the developing countries also seem to be quite united against their inclusion in the trade talks.

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What’s in an investment accord?

The Financial Express, November 26, 2001

Investment is one of the new issues, along with competition policy, trade facilitation and transparency in government procurement. We are overjoyed with the postponement of the negotiations on these issues. I am not so sure whether we can be complacent about the matter. As an experienced commentator put it: we will have our necks on the chopping block after two years, while another felt that we have buried the matter and will be able to postpone it even when it reappears two years hence. I don’t agree with either.

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Moralists do not make great diplomats
The Financial Express, November 21, 2001

Indian negotiators should be devoting much more time to developing strong common positions with other countries where their interests overlap. Moralists do not make great diplomats, and in seeking to identify and woo coalition members, India needs to have a clear idea of where interests do and do not overlap.

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Win some, lose some, at trade talks
The Financial Express, November 20, 2001

Whether India won or lost at Doha is the hot topic of discussion these days. India neither won nor lost; it bargained hard — and with fair amount of success — to minimise the losses and maximise the gains. In the world of international trade, each country pursues its interests.

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Who’s going home naked?
The Financial Express, November 14, 2001

Trade ministers are still trying to find the right words to paper over the wide cracks in different countries’ views on the Ministerial Declaration. However, the real sticking point is agriculture for the EU, as its representative Pascal Lamy is in a very difficult position. The EU already seems to have lost two of their most important issues, investment and competition, that they were hoping would help them to distract the public back home from concessions on agriculture. Without some kind of deal on their third issue, environment, Lamy is in danger of “going home naked.”

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Arm Twisting and Horse Trading Gain Momentum
The Financial Express, November 12, 2001

Despite all the howling, countries are engaged in specific talks on the controversial text of the draft ministerial declaration being negotiated here. Arm-twisting and horse-trading tactics are accelerating as the D-Day approaches. Countries are re-examining their positions, as any trader would, when selling or buying.

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Six chairs in search of an agenda
The Financial Express, November 12, 2001

Unlike Seattle there are no street demonstrations happening here, but some of the southern delegates, including India, are as angry as they were at the process. The 4th ministerial conference of the WTO may be a success or a failure. Clearly it is quite early to say what is likely to happen at the end of the day, but there is a desperate desire of many to arrive at a consensus and go home without an encore of Seattle.

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WTO: Why all the fuss over the Doha Ministerial?
The Financial Express, November 6, 2001

The WTO is an unequal treaty, but that truth applies to all countries, including the rich. If one looks at the hype in the United States over WTO it is about the same level as that in India. But, we are a tiny economic player against what the US is, despite the current downturn in the latter.
In this scenario, basically there are three issues before the international community: whether Doha is a safe place to meet at this juncture; whether the draft text of the ministerial declaration is acceptable to all, and lastly, in the unfair international trading system, whether the poor are going to get the short end of the rod once again.

More on: http://www.financialexpress.com/fe20011106/an1.html

How Free Will The Competition Commission Be?
The Financial Express, October 18, 2001

In late 1998, when firms of Pakistan increased the price of cement bags by about 75 per cent overnight, the Monopoly Control Authority (MCA) of Pakistan investigated and discovered a cartel. After long negotiations, the MCA decided to levy fines on the major offenders, who were market leaders, and ordered a reduction in price. Instead of implementing the orders, the industry reacted by accusing the government of market interference. The government intervened and despite the MCA’s theoretical independence, persuaded it to close the case. The lesson learnt is that not only theoretical independence matters but also that independence in practice is crucial.

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Why India should support a new trade-negotiating round
The Financial Express, September 06, 2001

Though India’s share in global trade is slightly over half-a-per cent, it has emerged as an influential voice in the international trading community. What is India’s latest stand vis-a-vis the agenda? “No” to a new round unless implementation issues are resolved satisfactorily, and “No” to negotiations on the so-called ‘new’ issues, i.e., competition, investment, trade facilitation and government procurement. The entire world is looking to India as a leader of the developing world and a major potential force in future global trade. India must realise that it is now time to take concrete steps rather than engaging in set-piece rhetorical exchanges.

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Winning the battle, losing the war in the global trading arena
The Financial Express, 25 August, 2001

After 50 years of patient progress and some hard negotiations, the international community has achieved its objective of a rules-based multilateral trading system. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) was established in the year 1995. But the question remains, is it enough to ensure a free and fair trade regime? The answer is ‘No’.

To establish a fairer and freer trade regime, countries need to adhere to certain basic principles. Evidence shows that things are not moving as per the fundamental requirements of the multilateral trading system. Even two of the biggest champions of free trade, the United States and Japan, are often unable to rise above their narrow parochial interests.

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A message on labour linkage for Mr. Zoellick and Mr. Maran
The Financial Express, August 9, 2001

It might surprise him to know this, but commerce minister Murasoli Maran could be doing US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick a big favour if he says a resounding “No Way” to the very mention of labour standards in connection with the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

In doing so, Mr Maran would also be defending the fundamental national interest of India as the country awaits the promised gains from integration into the world trading system. India’s abundant skilled labour is the source of its riches, a thought that India’s representatives should vigorously reiterate at the upcoming negotiations.

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Why India should support a new round of negotiations
Economic Times, August 06, 2001

The Government has acknowledged the recent fuel price hike to be the main reason for the spiralling prices of essential commodities. Alas, little has been done to address the root cause. For instance, taxes and levies form a chunky component of petro-product prices. So, the Government is actually fuelling inflation and stunting overall economic growth, by such imposts.

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Competition law should have special provision to check cartels
The Financial Express, July 14, 2001

In this era of fast-globalising markets, the internationalisation of cartel behaviour cannot be ignored. Some developed countries, including the US, Canada and the European Union, have broken international cartels operating in product markets such as bulk vitamins, citric acid and graphite electrodes, to name just a few, in the recent past.Even though, the extent of the damage caused by the cartels through their subsidiaries/suppliers on developing countries has not been assessed, nor has there been any initiative on the part of the developing world to deal with such cases.

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Need for clearer norms on IPR in new competition bill
The Financial Express, June 13, 2001

Apart from parallel imports (covered in our previous article), another area where the Competition Bill has failed to use the flexibility provided by TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) is “compulsory licensing.” The agreement, vide Article 31, allows compulsory licensing under certain conditions. One of them is to control anti-competitive practices by IPR owners.

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Tackling IPR excuses through the new competition law
The Financial Express, June 12, 2001

Intellectual Property Rights’ (IPR) protection drives forward innovation in the market by providing incentives for firms to compete with new products and processes. But, there is a risk that the exclusive right that a patent gives to an innovator will lead to abuse of market power. A successful IPR regime strikes a balance between protecting consumers from exploitation, ensuring adequate access to and use of the innovation in the economy while encouraging firms to invest in research and development.

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Who won the banana dispute?
The Financial Express, May 26, 2001

The eight-year old EC-US banana dispute came to a swift end with the signing of a bilateral agreement between the two parties. Under the new agreement, big marketing companies like Chiquita of USA and Noboa of Ecuador will get licenses to export bananas to the European Union (EU).

The surprising thing about this trade dispute is that neither the EU nor the US produces bananas. The trade dispute dates back to 1993 when the national markets of the EU countries were merged to form a common market for bananas. The US alleged that the system favoured growers in EU territories and former European colonies in the Caribbean over Latin American producers and US marketing companies such as Chiquita brands and Dole Food Co.

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Fighting the vitamins conspiracy
The Financial Express, April 25, 2001

US anti-trust authorities have recently brought to light a global conspiracy of leading drug manufacturers in the vitamins market to fix prices, allocate markets, supply contracts and sales volume, and engage in bid-rigging. The cartel controlled the most popular vitamins, including vitamins A, C and Betacarotene, over a nine-year period from 1990 to 1999.

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South Africa deserves full support in pharma battle
The Financial Express, April 7, 2001

A case currently being considered in South Africa has profound implications for consumers in India and worldwide. The South African Government stands accused by 39 pharma companies of infringing WTO rules on intellectual property rights (IPR) and contravening its own Constitution by allowing AIDS patients to get cheaper medicines than they could under the patent regime.

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Spreading the world’s wealth, equitably
The Financial Express, March 22, 2001

Clare Short, the British government’s international development minister needs to be congratulated for her bold initiative in publishing the second white paper on globalisation and development. The latest one: “Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor” reflects the seriousness about helping the poor.

One may not agree with all what it says.On the other hand, one can certainly question other rich governments if they too are as serious in trying to tackle poverty. All the rich countries have resolved halving world poverty by 2015 through their club, the OECD. But how many are putting forward even the semblance of a road map?

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Consumer movement and power reforms
The Economic Times, March 03, 2001

When the Prime Minister will meet the power ministers of four states on 3 March, it will be useful to address the issue of involving the consumers and their organisations in the movement for reforms in the power sector for the following reasons: Firstly, the new electricity regulatory laws have recognised the role of consumer organisations to represent consumers before the authorities. Secondly, electric power is a basic need and inherently essential for a dignified living. Thirdly, consumers are ready and willing to pay little more for a consistent supply of power, if they are assured of it meeting the benchmarks of quantity and quality, says Mehta.

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Growth on its own cannot lead to poverty reduction
The Economic Times, February 17, 2001

Notwithstanding the Gujarat tragedy, which will certainly set back its and the nation’s progress on many fronts, the way our states are approaching the issue of welfare expenditure leaves much to be desired. One doesn’t need to be an economist to understand that along with growth, investment in social sectors is an imperative in our campaign to eradicate poverty.

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Is liberalisation harming consumers and the economy?
The Economic Times, January 20, 2001

The revered Kanchi Shankaracharya has now joined the anti-globalisation bandwagon, seeking a halt of the liberalisation process, as ‘it is having a disastrous impact on our economy’. Many would like to believe that the current process of globalisation and liberalisation is harmful to our economy because several small and medium scale factories are closing due to cheaper import of consumer goods.

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Can trade sanctions eliminate child labour?
The Financial Express, January 16, 2001

Poverty is the main driving force behind parents pushing children to work. Population explosion is the other reason. The threat of trade sanctions or the imposition of trade barriers are likely to be excessively costly instruments for raising labour standards and even be counterproductive in some cases”. The overwhelming evidence against sanctions as an approach to child labour issues only confirms that there is a need for better understanding and compassion about the issue, along with reduced trade barriers to help children in poor countries overcome their misery.

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