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G-20 to focus on services too

March 19, 2005 10:06 IST

The G-20 alliance, which was so far trying to secure the interests of developing countries in agriculture, today tried to break fresh ground by expanding its focus to cover services and industrial goods.

Brazil, the co-ordinator of the group, said the alliance was open to a common minimum position in areas like services and non-agriculture market access, but agriculture should remain the core issue.

"There is a view that G-20 is mainly an agriculture-negotiating group, but if we try to have a common position (on other issues), it may break the unity on agriculture. Conversely, there is also a concern that if we do not discuss other issues, it may have an impact on our unity on agriculture," Brazilian External Relations and International Trade Minister Celso Amorim said, as the grouping began its two-day meeting in New Delhi on Friday.

Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said this was the first time the grouping had taken up issues other than agriculture.

While there was a broad consensus among the members on phasing out export subsidies by developed countries within five years from the date of the agreement, some least-developing countries were not satisfied with the draft declaration of the New Delhi meet.

At least two ministers sought a special dispensation, as the margins of their countries on the account of preferential tariffs would fall once duties on farm products were reduced following the WTO negotiations on agriculture.

They were of the opinion that the phasing out of preferences had not been adequately addressed in the draft declaration even though a revised draft circulated today contained more specific measures such as greater market access for products of vital interest to preference beneficiaries.

On the other hand, another member pointed out that the preferences had been negotiated bilaterally outside the WTO. Moreover, 40 per cent of the preferences are not utilised by the LDCs.

"An easier option for LDCs will be to seek zero duty access or liberlisation in the rules of origin adopted by the developed countries," an official from a G-20 member country said.

The official pointed out that the concerns of some LDCs over cotton were being addressed in the ministerial draft. A move to support the poor countries on cotton, the principal commodity of export for countries like Chad, Burkina Faso and Benin Republic, will help the developing countries push their case.

The support of the LDCs is crucial to combat the pressure of developed countries like the US and EU, which are seeking steep tariff reductions by developing and the poor countries without adequately cutting subsidies.

LDCs, Caricom and G-33 (a grouping led by Indonesia on special products and special safeguard measures for developing and least-developing countries) have been invited to the conference as special observers.
BS Economy Bureau in New Delhi