16 June, 2021

A Nation Of Shopkeepers

The WTO deluge is coming. The quiet deal on freeing import of 1,429 items may strangle farmers, small manufacturers.

A Nation Of Shopkeepers

For an agreement that will have a serious impact on Indian industry, trade, agriculture and economy, the government’s deal with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) lifting quantitative restrictions (QRs) on the import of 1,429 items neither generated media attention nor political debate. The deal was negotiated between N.N. Khanna, special secretary, ministry of commerce, and Susan G. Esserman of the WTO on December 16 when Parliament was in session. But the Vajpayee government did not feel the need to take the House into confidence.

Indeed, Esserman’s letter to Khanna states that the "agreement between our two governments" will "come into force from December 28, 1999." This was four days after the conclusion of the winter session of Parliament. Though the deal had been formalised, the otherwise efficient commerce ministry saw no reason to issue a press statement. It took another 15 days for the news to filter out from Washington, courtesy a press statement from the WTO, that the trade agreement had been reached.

While bypassing the...

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