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G20 to debate WTO terms

March 16, 2005 13:14 IST

The G-20 meeting in the Capital later this week will take stock of the state of negotiations at the World Trade Organisation, set milestones till July and finalise a joint paper on agriculture, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said on Tuesday.

"We had (in the informal G-20 meeting) in Davos decided that we will come out with milestones on what we want to achieve up to July. We will also come out with a paper on agriculture. The meeting will take a view on whether the developing countries will press for finalising the number of special and sensitive products or a formula before finalising the number," Nath told reporters in New Delhi.

"We should not allow a few (developed) countries to arrogate themselves to set the rules for multilateral trade," Nath said, adding that the G-20, though a diverse grouping, would formulate strategies to ensure a level-playing field for developing countries.

Nath pointed out that studies conducted by Oxfam had shown that six European processing companies had received more than $ 1billion subsidies in 2003. Similarly, a Minnesota-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy had documented export dumping from US-based multinational companies during the last 14 years, he added. In 2003, wheat was exported at an average price of 28 per cent below the cost of production.

Soyabeans and corn were exported at an average price of 10 per cent below cost of production and rice was exported at an average price of 26 per cent below cost of production.

The G-20 meeting will also have brainstorming sessions on other WTO issues like non-agriculture market access, services negotiations, and trade facilitation, TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) and environment.

"India feels that we should harmonise our positions, take on board other countries so that India bats for all developing countries and not for itself," he said.

The two-day meeting beginning here on March 18 is being attended by ministers from 14 countries while about 127 other delegates will also take part.

Besides member countries, the G-20 meeting will be attended by observers from the G-33, the Least Developing Countries, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group and the Caricom Group.

The meeting will be preceded by an officials-level meeting on March 17.

India will also sign five annexures with Mercusor on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting to operationalise a Preferential Trade Agreement with the group.

The annexures include two product lists, an annexure on rules of origin, safeguard measures and dispute settlement. The annexures will be signed by the ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay and by Nath on behalf of India. The two sides are granting preferential tariffs on 450 items each.

A meeting of representatives of industry associations such as Confederation of Indian Industry, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Assocham and Phdcci with Pakistan Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan to discuss bilateral trade issues has also been slated, Nath said.

Major players in the G-20 include Brazil, China, Egypt, South Africa, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mexico and Argentina.
BS Economy Bureau in New Delhi