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Rich nations must address concerns of not-so-rich: PM

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The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, sharing a moment with the Minister for External Affairs, Mr Yashwant Sinha, the FICCI President, Dr A.C. Muthiah, and the CII President, Mr Anand Mahindra, at the inaugural session of the second India-Asean Business Summit in the Capital on Thursday. — Kamal Narang

New Delhi , Sept. 4

THE Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has made a case for closer ties between ASEAN, India and other developing countries to ensure that their concerns on asymmetries and imbalances in multilateral agreements received the due attention that they deserved.

Inaugurating the two-day India-ASEAN Business Summit here, Mr Vajpayee made a veiled attack on the developed countries for not paying sufficient attention to the development dimension of the Doha Round.

"We try to highlight the asymmetries and imbalances in the multilateral trade agreements, but keep getting sidetracked into non-trade related issues. We are finding that the Doha agenda negotiations are a two-track process, with our concerns always on the slower track," Mr Vajpayee said.

He held that "India, ASEAN and other developing countries must insist that the multilateral trading regime takes into account the genuine concerns of the not-so-rich countries for the welfare and livelihood of billions of their citizens".

Mr Vajpayee's observations come at a time when the preparations are on full swing for the fifth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at Cancun in Mexico next week.

In his address, the Prime Minister cited agriculture as an issue where "we have a vital stake in achieving outcomes in conformity with the interests of our people". He pointed out that India and some ASEAN countries, together with a number of other countries, have taken some important initiatives, which should gain further momentum in the run up to Cancun. On India-ASEAN trade, Mr Vajpayee held that the current level of trade, even as it exceeds $10 billion, has barely scratched the surface of its potential.

"We must aim high and target a turnover of $15 billion over the next two years and $30 billion by 2007," Mr Vajpayee said.

The Prime Minister also suggested that India can share with ASEAN its expertise in space technology for developmental applications such as natural resources mapping, flood forecasting and hydrology. "We can expand this co-operation to the manufacture and launch of remote sensing and communication satellites. India has built and launched a number of satellites, both for itself and for other countries. We can offer this service to ASEAN countries at considerably less cost than what they incur at present," he said.

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