INDIAN OFFICIAL BLASTS GATT FOR TAKING REFORM LIGHTLY MARKET ACCESS SOUGHT FOR TEXTILES

INDIAN OFFICIAL BLASTS GATT FOR TAKING REFORM LIGHTLY MARKET ACCESS SOUGHT FOR TEXTILES

A senior Indian official Wednesday lashed out at delegates to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade for paying only lip service to economic reforms in countries like India.

"Instead of paying lip service to our reforms, (the international trading community) should contribute through a successful and substantial package of results, particularly in market access in the Uruguay Round (trade liberalization talks) for textiles," Balkrishan Zutshi, India's Ambassador to GATT, told the delegates in Geneva.Textiles and clothing are among India's largest and most rapidly expanding export industries. Others include manufactures such as chemicals, iron and steel, precious stones and jewelry.

The delegates to GATT, who jointly establish rules for most of the world's merchandise trade, Wednesday issued a report on India's trade regime.

In 1991, India's exports totaled $17.8 billion, and the major destinations were the European Community (27 percent), the United States (18 percent) and East Asia (12 percent).

The GATT study says that the "bold structural and budgetary reforms" have liberalized many foreign trade and financial policies, abolished industrial licensing for certain products, and eased terms for foreign direct investment.

The South Asian nation of 860 million, with a per capita income of $300 a year, has reduced its peak tariffs from 355 percent in 1991 to 85 percent in 1993. But the report says that "India remains a high-tariff economy" with

average tariffs still looming at 71 percent.

It says, however, that the government has pledged to bring tariffs down to 25 percent by 1997.

In some areas, such as consumer goods, India still retains "stringent import licensing," the report says.

It says that although the level of state trading in the economy has been declining since 1991, "state enterprises nevertheless retain monopoly control over certain imports - petroleum, fertilizers, drugs, edible oils and cereals."

India's exports in 1993-94 are projected to grow by 20 percent in dollar terms and in the same period inward flows of foreign direct investment are to exceed $1 billion, said Tejendra Khanna, the country's Secretary of Commerce.

The Indian trade official, in town for the review of his country's trade regime, said the process of economic reforms, begun in mid-1991, "will be carried forward irrespective of the changes which normally characterize any functioning democracy."

He said during April-August 1993, exports expanded by an average rate of 24 percent, and the inflow of foreign investment until August of this year reached $600 million. In 1992, foreign direct investment approvals reached 1,500, of which nearly 32 percent were granted to U.S. firms, he said.

Such investment, which averaged $120 million in 1985-88, increased to $1.66 billion between August 1991 to December 1992, the GATT report said.