The seven countries including Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe, in their submission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Thursday, also want advanced nations to publish the details of their trade distorting farm subsidies every year. The proposal comes in the wake of the US, Japan and the EU proposing punitive action on countries if they introduce or increase subsidies for domestic industry without reporting to the global trade watchdog.
Emphasising that some developed countries are “chronically low in their level of compliance with existing notification requirements” especially in services trade, they asked developed members to “regularly notify existing and new measures which significantly affect their mode 4 commitments”.
Mode 4 or movement of natural persons is one of the four ways through which services can be supplied internationally. It includes movement of natural persons such as independent professionals and is of key interest to India.
The proponents also asked countries giving trade distorting subsidies, called aggregate measurement of support in trade parlance, to notify those in 120 days following the end of the year as they take up to two years or more to submit these notifications. The US, EU and Canada are estimated to give $160 billion of trade-distorting farm subsidies to products including cotton, wool and tobacco.
“In an attempt to balance the selective reform proposals on transparency, this new paper by serves as an
important contribution to address the areas of importance to developing countries,” an expert on WTO matters said.
Tech transfer, patents
The group of seven countries also asked for annual notifications on the number of patent applications based on indigenous knowledge as “traditional communities are severely affected by unlawful appropriation of biological resources and associated traditional knowledge”.
They also opposed the practice of countries countering other countries’ notifications. “Neither the Secretariat or any other member of the WTO shall have the right to notify information on behalf of another member unless this possibility has been provided for in existing agreements,” they said.
The US, Canada and Australia this year, have issued counter notifications to India in its market price support for some commodities including pulses and sugarcane.
“The paper identifies legitimate constraints facing developing countries which is a new aspect that has often been taken for granted in the WTO discussions on transparency and enhanced notification requirements,” the expert added.
In the paper, the developing countries have asked for a definition of technology transfer and sought strict compliance by developed countries on their obligations to LDCs terming it as “abysmal” at present.