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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
India sceptical on WTO agenda
WTO director general Mike Moore
The WTO's Mike Moore eager for new global talks
The Indian government has set out its partial opposition to the draft agenda which the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is hoping will form the basis for a new round of global trade talks.

The WTO is anxious to avoid a repeat of the humiliating failure that overtook its last ministerial summit, in Seattle in 1999, when its 142 members gather in less than three weeks' time in Doha, Qatar.

To this end, the WTO has tried to get its 142 members to iron out disagreements in advance by drawing up a draft agenda.

But at a cabinet-level briefing, the commerce and industry ministry stressed India should view the current situation as "fluid," the Business Standard newspaper reported.

Sticking point

India will reject any attempt to expand the WTO's role unless developing countries concerns about the burdens imposed on them by existing agreements are addressed, it heard.

In particular, India will not accept European Union efforts to add investment and competition policy to the WTO agenda.

But it will accept talks on US anti-dumping laws as long as existing provisions granting flexibility to developing countries remain in place.

A major sticking point at Seattle was the refusal of many developing countries to counternance talks on fresh topics.

Instead, they called for renegotiation of past agreements, saying they were unfair and burdensome.

Compromise?

However, India seems to have accepted the WTO's compromise formula of including talks on implementation problems within a new trade round.

India will also reject any attempt to link trade agreements with the monitoring of labour standards in the developing world, the cabinet committee was told.

The link was strongly promoted by the United States at Seattle, in particular by President Bill Clinton, and backed by demonstrators outside the summit.

India, which is seeking leadership of the developing nations at Doha, has criticised this stance as protectionist.

The briefing also spelt out India's opposition to a compromise proposal for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to get an observer role in dispute settlement panels.

Moore concerned

WTO Director General Mike Moore has stressed the need for new trade liberalisation measures to stimulate the global economy in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States.

"We need a round today more than ever to boost confidence in the global economy, in the multilateral trading system and in international cooperation," he said at the draft's unveiling.

India is not alone in its criticism of the draft agenda.

The Pakistani ambassador to the WTO, Munir Akram, has said that "most of the provisions are a fudge."

See also:

25 Oct 01 | Business
Patent row brews ahead of WTO summit
25 Oct 01 | Business
World trade stagnates
22 Oct 01 | Business
WTO meeting to go ahead
19 Oct 01 | Business
Asia braced for China's WTO entry
18 Oct 01 | Business
Apec backs world trade round
28 Sep 01 | Business
WTO talks tough on trade
26 Sep 01 | Business
IMF warns on global economy
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