The Forum of Free Enterprise is a non-political organization founded in 1956 by A. D. Shroff and has been established to educate public opinion in India on free enterprise and a democratic way of life. The Forum publishes booklets to further its objects. The following booklet titled “GATT and India” was published on May 17, 1994, and was authored by Dr. Fredie A. Mehta and R.A. Shah.
Dr. Mehta discusses the economic implications of the GATT Accord on India, especially post the Uruguay round. He argues that GATT has been the greatest endeavour towards human accord in the second half of the twentieth century. He highlights three areas in which its achievements have been significant. Firstly, the number of countries involved has been roughly three times that involved in the founding of the United Nations. Secondly, in the absence of the GATT Accord world politics would have come to be deformed through the battles fought on economic grounds. Thirdly, despite the significant absence of China, as many as two-thirds of the total members of the 120-strong GATT Club belong to developing countries. Furthermore, he explains that the differential treatment has resulted in an overall reduction in GATT- commitments for the poorer countries. He goes on to spell out the impact of the agreement on various sectors like agriculture, textile, pharmaceuticals in India. He concludes by stating that India has come out a winner in areas in which it would have been adversely affected. Her categorisation as a poor developing country with a continuous balance of payments problems contributed to this.
R.A. Shah begins by listing out three distinct ways in which GATT operates. GATT acts as a set of rules, a forum for trade negotiations and an international code. He highlights that in the Uruguay round the Indian Government has been accused of complete surrender and sell out of national sovereignty. He goes on to summarise the benefits likely to result to India from the Dunkel Agreement in various sectors. He argues that the reduction in export subsidies on agriculture by developed countries will make the Indian agricultural exports more competitive in· the world markets. He notes that the subject that has aroused maximum controversy, heat and emotions pertains to pharmaceutical patents. Some features of India’s Patent Law have aggravated global indignation against India. He calls for the need to develop a constructive coalition or alliance between domestic industry, research laboratories, and the Government. He argues that we need to adopt a positive attitude in establishing our regime for intellectual property protection for biotech inventions. He suggests that the only area in which India has to alter its own autonomous policies and laws to conform with Dunkel Agreement is the area of Patents (including the area of plant breeder rights and micro-organisms). He highlights that the Agreement is not so much a challenge to our economic sovereignty as it is a challenge to our ability to compete in the international marketplace. He notes that we cannot continue to adopt an insular approach and seek aid and protection on the pretext of being a developing country as it really affects our national pride and self-respect. He concludes by stating that we must accept GATT not as a threat but as an opportunity.