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India rejects revised WTO draft

By K R Sudhaman in Bangkok
Last updated on: July 30, 2004 20:14 IST
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India on Friday rejected the revised WTO draft for Framework as it had failed to address its concerns particularly on agriculture.

However, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath, who arrived in Bangkok on Friday afternoon to participate in the bilateral talks on the Indo-Thai Free Trade Agreement, is rushing back to Geneva to explore if a new draft acceptable to both developing and developed countries could be cobbled together.

The minister, who received a telephone call from Geneva while he was addressing the news conference on completion of Early Harvest negotiations in Bangkok, said categorically that the new text was "not acceptable".

With no agreement in sight among the major players, the World Trade Organisation General Council meeting is expected to spill over to the next few days.

During the last four days of talks at Geneva, Kamal Nath said, agriculture remained a contentious issue. There were also interactions with G-20, G-90 and other like minded groups and with the Group of Five major players of US, European Union, India, Brazil and Australia to break the impasse.

"What we have been saying is that, India-specific conditions, its sensitivities of providing access to agricultural products with artificial prices because of nearly $300 billion of support and subsidies given by the US and the European Union, cannot possibly be compatible with India's agricultural scenario," Kamal Nath said.

So any agreement on agriculture must provide adequate safeguard to sensitive products to India, he said, adding India must be able to have special products as safeguard mechanism, which is a double protection element to protect the interest of its farmers.

"The developed countries must reduce, if not eliminate, which they are expected to do, export subsidies and domestic support," he said.

While the European Union has agreed to bring down the export subsidies they are giving to their farmers, US is still grappling with it, he said, adding they are also expected to eliminate domestic support which are trade distorting.

He said the artificiality of global prices of farm products because of huge domestic support had to be tackled as they negate the very purpose of having a multilateral trade agreement to provide free trade, element of competition and market access to all, particularly the developing countries.

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K R Sudhaman in Bangkok
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