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India may skip US-called WTO meet

April 17, 2004 13:52 IST

India is unlikely to attend a ministerial meeting convened by US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick to break the deadlock to restart the stalled World Trade Organisation negotiations.

India's Commerce Minister Arun Jaitley who received an invitation from Zoellick for the meeting to be held in London this month end, has expressed his difficulties in attending the meeting in lieu of the Lok Sabha elections, official sources said.

However, he may consider whistle-stop tour on April 30 to participate in the meeting if there was some forward movement in the agriculture negotiations at Geneva early next week.

The United States is keen to break the impasse in WTO talks and Zoellick has already visited several countries including India in last couple of months to narrow the differences among the key players, particularly on contentious agriculture issues.

The US, in consultation with European Union, Brazil, India, and South Africa, is trying to build a broad agreement or a framework encompassing all contentious including agriculture, non-agriculture market access, services and some of the new issues.

So far there has been no forward movement on agriculture with developing countries insisting on firm commitment on subsidies and domestic support, besides adequate safeguards to protect their livelihood concerns of poor farmers.

Among the new issues known as Singapore issues, the EU and the US have indicated that they were not averse to dropping investment and competition, two of the four Singapore issues after the collapse of Cancun ministerial.

Now there appears to be broad consensus among members to bring into the WTO work programme, trade facilitation, on the two remaining Singapore issues.

Apart from EU, India, Brazil and Mexico, Zoellick has extended the invitation for the informal ministerial to Kenya, South Africa, Egypt and Japan.

The two-day meeting in London would precede another gathering of WTO members on the sidelines of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development conference in Paris on May 14.

Thirty countries, mainly large developing nations China, Brazil and India are expected to attend a mini-ministerial to be chaired by Mexico, the present chairman of WTO on the sidelines of OECD.

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