Brazil, India to Scrap Duties for Poorest Nations

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 3/30/2010 12:42:00 AM
In the grand scheme of things, I suppose this initiative doesn't count for much, but it still displays proactivity on the part of two of the BRICs or major developing countries. Brazil and India have always been very active diplomatic players, and this is nowhere more visible than in the trade arena. They are, of course, the leading negotiating countries representing the Global South opposite the US and EU in the WTO Doha round.

Now, we receive news of their gesture of goodwill. I am sure you are familiar with the debt forgiveness initiatives for Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC)--see the IMF and World Bank for details. However, since the main dispensers of development aid to these poor countries have typically been industrialized ones, it seems the route Brazil and India have taken is to slash tariffs to zero for a select group of least-developed countries. If I remember correctly, Joseph Stiglitz proposed something similar in Making Globalization Work: a system where wealthier nations would give tariff-free access to poorer ones and so on down the line:
Brazil said that an inter-ministerial working group is finalizing implementation of the commitment made by Foreign Minister Celso Amorim at the WTO Ministerial Conference last year for duty-free, quota-free treatment for LDCs. It said that the preferential treatment will initially cover 80 per cent of the tariff lines by mid-year, and will be expanded to reach 100 per cent.

India said that it was the first developing country to offer duty-free, quota-free treatment to LDC exports in 2008. It said it is working to ensure that the scheme provide effective market access, noting that important LDC products are covered like cotton, cocoa, cane sugar and ready-made garments. It said that the scheme has become fully operational for 14 LDCs, and urged other LDCs to utilize this facility. Bangladesh underlined the importance of the scheme for LDCs, and thanked Brazil and India for their update reports on their respective programmes.

Brazil and India told the Committee on Trade and Development on 18 March 2010 that they are pushing ahead with commitments to provide duty-free, quota-free treatment of imports from the least-developed countries (LDCs). The Committee elected Amb. Erwidodo (Indonesia) as its chair for 2010 and re-elected Amb. Jean Feyder (Luxembourg) as chair of the Sub-Committee on Least-Developed Countries.
I previously thought Stiglitz's idea was unrealistic to implement on a multilateral basis, but who knows? This sort of arrangement may become more popular as others strive to look as big-hearted as Brazil and India. Kudos to both even if this is almost certainly an effort to cement their current position as leaders in representing third world interests.