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New Delhi, Dec 7

WITH the sixth Ministerial meeting of the WTO set to begin early next week in Hong Kong, India views the Hong Kong conclave as "a staging post to bringing about greater convergence" among member countries on contentious issues like agriculture and other goods.

Taking part in a discussion in both Houses of Parliament today about the role of India in WTO with particular reference to the forthcoming Ministerial, the Union Commerce and Industry Minister, Mr Kamal Nath, who will lead the Indian delegation, said in a statement that the draft Ministerial text released by the WTO points out "wide divergences on a large number of issues, especially in agriculture and other goods."

He also said that full modalities in agriculture and other goods would not be possible in Hong Kong and that there might be "a need for another Ministerial meeting earlier next year to complete this stage of the negotiations."

Stating that Hong Kong was but "a staging post to bringing about greater convergence so that full modalities could be achieved in 2006," Mr Nath said that India looks forward to the successful completion of the Doha Development Round by the end of 2006.

He added that agriculture remains by far the most important sector for India in the ongoing negotiations and that farmers' interests would be fully protected at the Hong Kong meeting since agriculture was not commerce; for a vast majority of Indian farmers it was a matter of livelihood.

With respect to non-agricultural (industrial) goods market access, he said that India has been stressing that developing countries would offer less than full reciprocity in tariff reduction commitments.

In services, India had a strong comparative advantage. "It is this strength and global competitiveness that has guided our stance in the services negotiations at the WTO. Our core objectives in this area are liberalisation of Modes 1 (cross-border supply) and Mode 4 (movement of natural persons) and disciplining of domestic regulations, which act as barriers to effective market access for service providers from India."

In the negotiations on WTO rules such as on anti-dumping, subsidies and countervailing measures including fisheries subsidies, while India is not seeking to straitjacket disciplines to an extent that WTO members cannot check unfair trade practice, it seeks strengthening of disciplines consistent with the Doha remit in order to limit the unwarranted use of these measures, particularly against exports of developing countries including India.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 8, 2005)
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