Avoid Backing Investment Facilitation at WTO Meet, Swadeshi Jagran Manch Cautions Govt

New Delhi: Ahead of a gathering of representatives of 50 WTO countries here on Monday, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) has asked the government to protect India’s national interest even if the country has to stand alone.

SJM, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has also cautioned the commerce and industry ministry from making any statement at the World Trade Organization (WTO) mini ministerial on the contentious issue of investment facilitation.

It said other nations can view such a move as an indication of India’s flexibility on initiating negotiations on investment facilitation. “Even if India has to stand alone for protecting its national interest, it must not hesitate in doing so,” SJM said in a letter to commerce minister Suresh Prabhu.

India is hosting an informal WTO mini ministerial meeting on March 19-20 to decide the way forward for the multilateral trade body after talks fell through at the 11th ministerial conference (MC11) in Buenos Aires in December last year.

Emphasising on the lack of unanimity among various ministries on investment facilitation, SJM said there is little or no evidence that binding rules on investment facilitation will help attract foreign investment into India.

Investment facilitation is meant to streamline and speed up administrative procedures and requirements, and enhance international cooperation.

“After acceding to investment facilitation, our national interests would be at stake,” SJM national co-convener Ashwani Mahajan said in the letter referring to instances when India had to invoke sunset clause in its Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements.

CHANGING PRIORITIES

Critical of the push by many countries, including the US, to introduce new issues into the WTO negotiating table, SJM said the mini ministerial should be used to reiterate that any talks on new issues must be started only if there is an explicit consensus among all WTO members.

SJM said that India’s food security is a challenge and it was the US which came in the way of the country getting a permanent solution for its public stockholding of grains. “The US along with the other developed countries are changing their priority... towards fast track work programme on rule making in e-commerce, investment facilitation and also limiting fisheries subsidies for illegal and unreported fisheries. This must be checked,” the letter said.

On the issue of cross border digital trade, the RSS affiliate said the constantly developing technology in e-commerce calls for a waitand-watch policy, and “we shouldn’t hurry to bring e-commerce on the negotiating table of the WTO”. In fact, SJM has asked India and other like-minded member countries to come out with a joint statement opposing multilateral negotiations on this issue.

With protectionism on the rise across the world, SJM has said the existing architecture of special and differential treatment provisions for developing countries must be preserved.


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