ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Tilting at Windmills

characteristic of much of the discussion on economic policy issues is once again reflected in the reaction to the modifications in the exim policy announced by commerce minister Ramakrishna Hegde this week. The moving of some 340 items, mostly consumer goods, from the restricted import list to the open general licence (OGL) list, as part of the ongoing process of eliminating quantitative import restrictions and the system of import licensing, has brought the house down, or so it would seem. This far from earth-shaking change has been condemned as a sellout to the WTO, the IMF/World Bank and the US. Even some of the BJP-Ied government's supporters are seriously concerned apparently that it marks a dilution of the government's proclaimed 'swadeshi' line in the management of the economy. The fact, of course, is that India is bound by a commitment made by the United Front government last year to do away with all quantitative restrictions on imports over a six-year period by the year 2002; Agreements to this effect were reached with the European Union, Japan and Australia and the specific items now transferred from the restricted import to the OGL list are presumably those of special interest to them. The US, on the other hand, found India's offer not satisfactory enough and has invoked the WTO's disputes settlement procedure. A meeting of the WTO's disputes panel is accordingly scheduled for the end of this month to consider the matter.

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