The Importance of Institutionalizing? Structured Consultations in Evaluating Trade Proposals: Lessons from India's Experience and their Wider Relevance.
The government of India relies for external advice on an informal and largely unstructured consultative process with key business associations and other civil society groups, but these associations are not really institutionalized or set up to provide informed advice based on credible or usable information that relates to specific issues under negotiation in the WTO. Nor does the government of India generate this information internally. Rather than helping to shape negotiating options, the consultative process is used to build support amongst the business community for proposals that often originate from within the NGO community. Their rather unique contribution to trade policy understanding arises because the NGO community in India has traditionally initiated detailed debates on economic and social outcomes to policy proposals of the government. Their intelligent use of the media has further enhanced their roles. With the Uruguay round introducing a wide range of fundamental policy reforms with just such an anticipated impact, NGOs began to engage with the policy process in ways that brought implementation concerns relating to social, environmental and economic issues to the fore, often feeding an intense political debate about development models and other broad issues. As a result, the policy process is often overly political and insufficiently detailed in its assessments, with very uncertain consequences for poverty reduction strategies. This paper suggests that a fairly simple series of institutional reforms centred on a mandatory and structured consultative process could significantly enhance the quality of policy and negotiating inputs by providing business associations with the incentives they need to invest in participating effectively in the policy process.
IPPG Briefing Paper No. Eleven, In Conjunction with CUTS International, DFID, London, UK, 10 pp.