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|October 20, 1999||
EC top brass gropes for India's WTO stance in run-up to Seattle
Ranvir Nayar in Paris
In order to assess the attitude of the National Democratic Alliance government toward the upcoming Seattle Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation, top officials of the European Commission are expected to seek a meeting with Commerce Minister Murasoli Maran next week.
Maran is visiting Luassane in Switzerland for a meeting of the "Friends of the New WTO Round'' that is being held at the initiative of the European Union. It is learnt that the European Commission officials are keen to organise a meeting between Maran and the EC Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.
The meeting attains significance since this will be the first formal exchange between the two sides since the formation of the new government in New Delhi as well as the installation of the new commission in Bruxelles.
So far, the EC stance on the Seattle Round and other global trade issues had been single handedly guided by the high profile former commissioner Leon Brittan. He is also often credited with having coined the term the Millenium Round. He had been travelling across the globe trying to convince various countries -- from Japan and the US to Korea and India -- about the absolute necessity of expanding the Seattle Round to include larger trade-related issues and push more liberalisation of the global trade.
However, observers have been keenly watching whether Brittan’s successor will continue with his agenda. There are just five weeks to go before the beginning of the Seattle Round.
Although most say it is too late for Lamy to reverse Brittan’s agenda in any significant manner, the new commissioner has already made it clear where his sympathies lie. Even as he took the office, Lamy openly called for a WTO round that would be truly helpful for the developing countries.
Lamy said the developing countries needed special and discretionary treatment not just in treaties on paper, but also in the real life trade. He said it would be his priority to see that the new round is balanced and really helps the developing countries.
These views should be welcomed by Maran when he meets Lamy, since India too has been demanding that the global trade rules need to be reoriented so as to be truly and really beneficial to the Third World.
Lamy and his senior bureaucrats would also use the opportunity to see to what extent India is willing to go in Seattle and which issues can India and the EU have in common for the crucial November meet.
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