Press Releases 2006

“Cross Party Structure of MPs Needed to Advise on International Negotiations”

New Delhi, August 22, 2006

Members of the Parliament were unanimous that the government should put in place a well informed structure of parliamentarians to influence India?s position vis-?vis key issues under negotiation at various international fora.

The Government should try to gather the sense of the House before engaging itself into multilateral trade negotiations. For the purpose, a core team of informed MPs cutting across various parties be formulated to advise the government on the step ahead in negotiations. This was suggested by the team of Parliamentarians speaking at the fourth meeting of Parliamentarians’ Forum on Economic Policy Issues (PARFORE) organised by CUTS International in the capital.

Mr Suresh Prabhu, MP, SS said that the rules of the House may be changed to bring in this order and any negotiation issue like WTO should be first discussed in this group to form a consensus. This multi-stakeholder exercise will bring to the table more divergent views and solutions that can help garner a favourable negotiation for the country.

The MPs were discussing the ?Suspension of Doha Talks ? Reasons, Possible After Effects & Implications for India’ at the Meeting.

The Parliamentarians felt that the suspension of WTO talks was not a victory for India. It was infact a set back on multilateralism as most of the countries would now go for bilateral agreements.

Endorsing the views expressed by the other Parliamentarians, Mr Yashwant Sinha, MP, BJP said that India must not let Doha round fail completely. ?Let Doha round come to some conclusion by next year else it will have a dampening effect on all international negotiations. We should leave the agriculture aside for the time being and negotiate on other issues including services which contributes more than 50% to our GDP?, Mr Sinha said.

Sounding pessimist, Dr P C Alexander, MP, Independent said that the developing nations must realise that we would not get anything from the developed world just because development agenda was on the WTO table.

?Stand of US in multilateral trade negotiations has always been obstinate. We need to take the subsidy item more seriously than we have done till now. Agriculture subsidy by US on commodities and EU on dairy and milk products must be given top priority in all future meetings?, Mr Alexandar said.

Citing the example of cotton subsidy in US, he said that subsidy on cotton is US was almost equal to the price of cotton and this was the reason that they could undersell and Indian farmers have suffered badly because of cheap import of cotton.

Mr Sharad Joshi, MP, SBP said that it was in our interest that we did not allow the talks to collapse. He suggested that we should use the Marakesh Agreement to make US and EU bring down subsidies.

In his remarks, Mr Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International suggested setting up of an International Trade Department in the Ministry of Commerce. This was also earlier suggested by the Standing Committee on Commerce headed by Mr Murli Manohar Joshi though not much had happened on the recommendation. He said that India was entering into a large number of non-multilateral agreements like FTA with Sri Lanka, CECA with Singapore and another FTA with Thailand in progress. But the negotiating capacity in the area of trade was limited with the Trade Policy Division of Ministry of Commerce having insufficient staff strength and a lot to handle.

For further details, please contact:

Mani Lamba: +9199104 45526

Vijay Singh: +9198182 50102

Single Appellate Body be Appointed for All Sectoral Regulators: Parliamentarians Unanimous

New Delhi, May 18, 2006

At the meeting of Members of Parliament under the aegis of Parliamentarians’ Forum on Economic Policy Issues (PARFORE) organised by CUTS International, there was unanimity across various political parties on the need to avoid a proliferation of Appellate Tribunals. The Competition Appellate Tribunal proposed in Competition Amendment Bill should also be the appellate tribunal for all sectoral regulators.

?There should be only one Appellate Body covering all sector regulators instead of a multiplicity of Sectoral Appellate Bodies to hear appeals against the orders of their respective sectoral regulators.? Dr P. C. Alexander, MP Rajya Sabha and Chairman, PARFORE said.

There is often an overlap between the functions performed by various regulatory agencies. Setting up of an appellate body for each regulatory agency can lead to forum shopping in similar cases and possibility of divergent decisions, the forum opined.

The forum also felt that the Competition Commission of India could consist of a Chairperson and not more than six members as proposed in the Amendment Bill. However, there should be a provision for appointment of part time members, who could be appointed for their expertise on a case to case basis. This practice was being followed in many countries and also by TRAI. It would also enable expeditious disposal of cases.

Stressing on the responsibilities of the members of CCI, Mr Sharad Joshi, MP, SBP, said that every Bill creates an authority but the final Act does not lay down proper guidelines for carrying out the work. This should not be repeated in the case of the Competition Amendment Bill especially since part time professionals are not currently envisaged. The work outline should be clearly defined and allocated for speedier results.

There was also a consensus on the issue of reducing the age limit of Chairperson and other members to less than 65. ?It has been observed that most of the Authorities so created become parking slots for retired bureaucrats. This should not happen in CCI. Hence every effort should be made to restrict the age limit to less than 65?, Mrs Jayaben, Thakkar, MP, BJP said.

It was also felt that there was a need to overhaul the entire system of regulation. The purpose of any Act is protection of the interest of the public from monopoly economic power and this must always be kept in mind while formulating any law.

On the need to improve the supervisory role of Parliament, the Forum was of the view that a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Regulation and Competition be constituted. The Committee could call all the regulatory authorities and CCI for a hearing and submit its Report to Parliament.

Circulating its suggestions on the Competition Amendment Bill, CUTS International had stated that the need for a Competition Law arises to address anti competitive practices designed to restrict the free play of competition in the market, to address unfair means adopted by firms against the consumers and to extract maximum possible consumers? surplus and to maintain and promote the competition spirit in the market.

The purpose of Competition Advocacy is to create awareness on competition culture. However, CCI can merely advocate to the government when called upon to do so and its recommendations are only advisory, not mandatory. This clause needs to be amended and CCI should be empowered to suo moto participate in the formulation of a policy without being invited by the governments, CUTS International agenda stated.

Shri Suresh Prabhu (SS), Dinesh Trivedi (AITC), N N Krishandas CPI(M) and representatives from consumer and civil society organisations were present in the meeting.

For further details, please contact:

Mani Lamba: +9199104 45526

Vijay Singh: +9198182 50102