THE DUNKEL draft on the renegotiated GATT is finally
becoming a public concern in India and farmers are taking the issue to the streets. Several industrial sectors, too,
have expressed concern about some of its provisions.
Nevertheless, the government continues to fight shy of
revealing either its stand or its strategy in the ongoing
negotiations, except to reiterate piously that it will
assuredly protect India's economic interests.
Unfortunately, secrecy has bred more suspicion than
If adopted as it is, the Dunkel draft would have a considerable impact on India's economy and ecology and
curtail its freedom of action. Prices of several vital commodities would go up and the worst-affected.woul 'd be
drugs and medicines because the pharmaceutical industry in India has taken the maximum advantage of the
country's patent laws, which do not provide product
patents for certain importapt items for the public such as
medicines. Hence, the same product can be produced by
any manufacturer who comes up
with a new process to manufacture
it. Taking advantage of this provision in the Indian Patents Act, manufacturers have been able to produce important medicines ontheir
own and sell them cheaply in the
Indian market. This will not be possible if the Dunkel proposals are
accepted becau 'so the price of
Indian pharmaceuticals will
Because patent protection may
make new products unavailable for
production in India, their imports
will result in a continuing drain on
the country's foreign exchange
reserves. An example of this may be
chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) substitutes that are critical in the refrigeration industry. Required under the Montreal Protocol to
phase out CFCs, countries like India would prefer to produce substitutes domestically instead of importing them.
If product patents were not available in India for CFC
substitutes, Indian scientists could try and find a new
process for these substitutes, which would also mean
promoting indigenous production.
The Dunkel draft does not even recognise the concept
of compulsory licensing, which requires a foreign innovator obtaining a patent for a particular product in India,
to manufacture the product in India to get the benefit of
patent protection. If the manufacturer fails to "work" the
patent here, it would seem only fair for the manufacturer
to license an Indian company to produce the product
locally. But, according to the Dunkel proposals, mere
imports would qualify the manufacturer for the working
of a patent. This puts developing countries at a great disadvantage, especially those that would like to promote
The most dramatic impact is expected in agriculture,
with the Dunkel draft unequivocally upholding the interests of seed developers. The fear is that under Dunkel,
farmers will no longer be able to keep back part of their
harvest for use as seed. Instead, the farmers will have to
go to the companies again and again to buy seed for sowing. This exposes a country's food production - the
most basic activity for human existence - to control by
seed companies, besides Wng galling to Third World
countries, whose farmers selected, bred and conserved
the seeds that form the raw material for future seed
development by the big cor4panies. And these farmers
will get nothing in return fd6their contribution.
The Dunkel draft has to be'
seen as part of a net that the West-dominsled world economic system
is casting over the Third World.
Growing Western financial control
is wtet ed through institutions like
the Inilernational Monetary Fund
and the World Bank, which dictate
the financial policies that govern
Third World economies. The renegotiated GATT will further erode
sovereignty in such areas as trade
and intellectual property, and
North-influenced global and national environmental conventions and
regulations will increasingly determine the South's use of its natural
All these factors are forcing
fledgling Third World economies
and ecological systems to open up and compete with the
West - on terms set by the latterWill the developing world-face up to this challenge?
Many believe the South can take on the North through
grit, determination and its advantage of cheap labour. In
fact, one lobby of Indian farmers angry at what it considers being subjected to inefficient and erroneous state
policies, is arguing for precisely this response to the challenge. There are many more, however, who are con-
vinced this is impossible because the rules of the game
are being written almost exclusively by the North.
The Indian government must take the country into
full confidence and outline all the implications of GATT
and explain what the country's position and strategy
should be. Even if it is accepted that India cannot stand
alone and must become part of a global consensus, the
government must fight to make that consensus more
Hence, a new era of diplomacy will have to open up.
It is clear Third World indebtedness is so high, South-
South solidarity has virtually disappeared on important
issues and developing countries are forced individually
to accord more value to bilateral relationships with
developed countries than to solidarity with each other. In
such circumstances, developing countries may have to
establish links with appropriate interest groups in the
North, such as farmers in Europe who are protesting
GATT. Third World diplomats have not done much of
this in the past and they cannot do it now by themselves.
They will have to ensure they involve their own NGOs
and other interest groups to get such international dialogue going. +his happened to some extent in environmental negotiations and is proof that to be effective.
Indian negotiators will have to take into confidence their
own interest groups and NGOs.
This, of course, implies a new style of working. The
Dunkel draft not only has to be thoroughly understood
but also fought effectively. There should be no doubt that
the fight is going to be daunting. But the sooner we
develop suitable strategies, the better equipped we will
be to argue our positions convincingly.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.