India's paper may become basis for WTO negotiations on services

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Mr Kamal Nath
Mr Kamal Nath

Our Bureau

New Delhi, Oct 14

AN issue paper prepared by India has received broad support in the Core Ministerial Group on Services as a basis for moving forward in the ongoing WTO negotiations in services.

The Commerce and Industry Minister, Mr Kamal Nath, tabled this paper in Geneva on Wednesday at a meeting of the Core Group, which was jointly co-chaired by him and Mr Robert Portman, the US Trade Representative (USTR).

An official release made available here today said that India's paper aims to provide a structure and focus on the various issues on which a decision would be required at the WTO's Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December in order to achieve a balanced and meaningful package on services at the end of the current Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations.

Ministers and senior officials of 15 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, European Communities, Egypt, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, and the US) attended the core group meeting.

The meeting was convened to consider concrete ways of imparting "specificity and momentum" to the services negotiations.

The official release said that members of the core group agreed on certain basic principles that would guide further work in negotiating the guidelines and procedures on services.

The members agreed that any complementary approach must supplement and not replace the existing request-offer approach, which in fact needs to be intensified simultaneously. Currently, negotiations on services at the WTO are carried out on request and offer basis.

Further, it was also held that any complementary approach must preserve the basic architecture of General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the flexibility it provides particularly for developing country members, including the level of development of individual members. Another principle that was agreed was that the focus of any such approach should be improvements from the existing commitments. The paper emphasised the need to improve the quality as well as coverage of commitments in services.

It was also decided that the issue paper tabled by India would be shared with the whole membership of the WTO for both transparency and to facilitate moving ahead in this important area of negotiations.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated October 15, 2005)
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