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Conclave begins on Friday in New Delhi — G-20 partners to evolve strategy on WTO issues

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The Minister for Commerce and Industry, Mr Kamal Nath, with the Minister of State, Mr. E.V.K.S. Elangovan, at a press conference in the Capital on Tuesday. — Ramesh Sharma

New Delhi , March 15

THE Group of 20, a pre-Cancun WTO ministerial alliance of big and small countries to safeguard their agricultural interests, is holding a two-day conclave here beginning on March 18 to take "a G-20 position" on WTO-related issues and come out with "position papers", the Union Commerce and Industry Minister, Mr Kamal Nath, has said.

Addressing a news conference to declare India's hosting G-20 ministerial meeting, Mr Nath said that the meeting was poised at a crucial juncture in the process of trade negotiations.

The technical work has largely shown the implications and now political inputs are considered necessary in order to break the deadlock on various technical matters among WTO members. He said the meeting would take alliance consolidation to remain united to press for the concerns affecting their interests.

The meeting would evolve the G-20 strategy and position in the ensuing multilateral trade negotiations in the WTO in the months ahead, with the broader time-frame of the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference of the WTO to be held from December 13 to 18, so as to incorporate the key concerns of its members in the outcome of the ministerial meeting.

The G-20 includes Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Thailand, Guatemala, and Paraguay Bolivia, besides India.

Mr Kamal Nath said the G-20 recognises that most developing countries must marshal collective strength to succeed to end the practices of a small group of producers in rich world that benefit from enormous financial support from their treasuries, depressing prices, unduly increasing their market share and compromising the food security and livelihood of farmers in many developing countries.

He cited figures from OECD and other studies to show how rich countries subsidise their cotton, rice and other foodgrains by exporting farm produce below their cost of production which drive down the prices of these produce in the global market to the detriment of developing countries' exports.

The meeting would also address issues of tariff reductions formula on non-agricultural market products and here "while India has been reducing its industrial tariffs to bring it into ASEAN level, the concerns of African countries which depend on them for revenue should be taken into account".

The Minister also voiced concern over the deft move by developed countries to drive a wedge within developing world by redefining developing countries.

"Anything not within the Doha mandate is not acceptable to us", he said, reaffirming India's commitment to Doha development agenda.

He also confirmed the participation of 14 trade ministers from the G-20 alliance partners so far and the G-20 has been reaching out with an inclusive approach to other developing countries so that there is support and understanding of each other's positions.

The New Delhi meeting will have the representation of a number of developing country alliances as Observers.

They include the G-33, the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) countries, the Africa group, the CARICOM (Caribbean Community8) and the least developed countries.

There have been efforts to draw out self-serving inter-linkages between agriculture and other areas of negotiations such as NAMA (non agricultural market access), services, trade facilitation, rules, trade-related intellectual property rights and environment, while there were serious slippages in resolving development issues.

Hence the meeting would brainstorm on these facets too, the Minister said.

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