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Cancun draft in rough weather

Sidhartha | July 28, 2003 09:55 IST

Transparency in preparations for the ministerial meeting in Cancun have once again come to haunt the World Trade Organisation.

Many developing countries, including India, have criticised the approach adopted by WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi and Chair of the General Council Carlos Perez del Castillo of Uruguay in preparing the first draft of the Cancun ministerial text, which was circulated among WTO members on July 18.

Sections in the civil society are saying the process adopted for the Cancun ministerial is worse than the one leading to the Doha ministerial meet in November 2001.

At a meeting of the WTO general council in Geneva on Friday, commerce secretary Dipak Chatterjee said subsequent drafts would be prepared in a manner, which "reflected the views of all members and any divergence in opinion would be fully and faithfully expressed."

Commerce ministry officials said some delegations had said the reports and papers on the ministerial meet should be prepared by members rather than the chair so that they reflected popular views instead of those of developed countries.

A second draft ministerial text is scheduled to be issued on August 22, about a fortnight before the ministerial begins in Mexico on September 10. The general council will discuss it on August 25-26.

Even during the last ministerial meeting, countries like India had alleged that the views of developing countries were suppressed. With the elevation of Panitchpakdi as head of the WTO, things were expected to change. So far, indications are to the contrary.

India's homework
From the second week of August, India will start consultations on evolving a strategy for the WTO ministerial at Cancun.

On August 9, Commerce and Industry Minister Arun Jaitley will hold a meeting of the advisory board, which comprises experts and representatives from industry.

Activities will pick up after the Monsoon Session of Parliament ends on August 15. On August 18 and 19, the commerce ministry will organise a seminar to educate everyone about India's stand on various trade issues. Here, Jaitley will announce the country's areas of the interest.

This will be followed by consultations with political parties, industry labour unions and experts. During these sessions, the ministry will once again present its side of the story and seek inputs from others. State governments may also attend.

Once the consultations are over, the commerce ministry will approach the Cabinet committee on WTO to seek its approval on a strategy paper, prepared on the basis of the views expressed by all stakeholders.

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