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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2002

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`SAARC nations must work unitedly on WTO issues'

Our Bureau

Mr K.C. Pant

NEW DELHI, July 22

THE South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) countries should build momentum towards furthering co-operation on various WTO issues, including the four new issues (Singapore issues) of investment, competition policy, transparency in Government procurement and trade facilitation.

"The WTO agenda is constantly being expanded to bring more and more issues to the negotiating table. We have to prepare ourselves not only for the ongoing (mandated) negotiations, but also for dealing with the new issues. This is a formidable challenge'', Mr K.C. Pant, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, said here.

In his inaugural address at the fifth meeting of the SAARC Network of Researchers on Global Financial and Economic Issues and Seminar on `World Trading System and South Asia: Post-Doha Challenges', Mr Pant said the SAARC countries had coordinated effectively on WTO issues in the past. He siad the Commerce Ministers of SAARC countries had met before the Ministerial Conferences of WTO in Seattle and Doha to evolve their common positions and co-ordinate their strategies with some profit.

He also highlighted the tendency in the recent trade negotiations to dilute the provisions of Article VIIIB of GATT that provides for special and differential treatment of developing countries. "The challenge before researchers is to propose ways and means of incorporating enforceable provisions in different agreements that take care of the special needs of developing countries'', Mr Pant said.

In his message for the meeting, Mr Q.A.M.A.Rahim, SAARC Secretary General, said that SAARC countries need to be "fully cognisant of the deeper ramifications of the Declaration that was signed in Doha last year''.

With a little over a year to go before the commencement of Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference in Mexico, Mr Rahim stressed the need for the SAARC countries to begin the process of consultations with each other in understanding the fine print and implications of what was agreed to in Doha.

"Already there are rumblings in Geneva that there is disagreement on what was agreed to and signed'', he said.

Nepal's Ambassador to India, Dr Bhekh B Thapa, highlighted that SAARC countries were yet to put economic issues ahead of other issues facing them today.

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