Developing countries set to lock horns with U.S., E.U. at Cancun

NEW DELHI SEPT. 6. The Union Commerce Minister, Arun Jaitley, will lead a high-power delegation to the World Trade Organisation Ministerial meeting beginning at Cancun in Mexico on September 10 where India and other developing countries are expected to lock horns with the United States and the European Union on issues such as agriculture, Singapore and market access to industrial products.

Having armed himself with a broad consensus from political parties, trade unions and Indian industry, with whom he held consultations, Mr. Jaitley leaves for Cancun tomorrow with a clear brief to oppose non-trade Singapore issues being brought into the work programme of the WTO.

The four Singapore issues comprise trade and investment, competition policy, trade facilitation and transparency in government procurement. Negotiations can begin on them only after the modalities are worked out with explicit consensus at Cancun, official sources indicated.

Technically, explicit consensus means that all 146 members should agree to the modalities, failing which negotiations could not begin. Mr. Jaitley has already made it clear that India would stand "firm" in opposing Singapore issues even at the risk of being isolated.

Mr. Jaitley will be accompanied by the Minister of State for Commerce, S.B. Mukherjee, the Commerce Secretary, Dipak Chaterjee, the Additional Secretary, S.N. Menon, senior officials from the Ministries of External Affairs, Agriculture, Textiles, Small Scale Industries, and those from the CII and the FICCI.

India had been actively participating in the negotiations on various issues included in the Doha Work Programme and has consistently taken the stand that the development dimension of the programme should not be diluted at any cost. Agriculture is crucial to India as 650 million farmers depended on it for livelihood and any trade negotiation would be meaningless if it failed to improve the living conditions of poor farmers. This cannot be achieved unless there is a significant and meaningful reduction in domestic support and all forms of export subsidies by developed nations.

Concerns relating to food security and livelihood of farmers too will have to be addressed through effective protection for their produce and sufficient flexibility to apply safeguards to address different situations.

In non-agricultural products, India has strongly advocated increased market access for products of export interest to it, including textiles and leather goods.

It also stressed on the need for providing for "less than full reciprocity" in the matter of reduction commitments by developing countries.

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