Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Tuesday, 25 July 2006 13:56 UK

India 'to pursue own trade deals'

Indian farmer
Indian farmers' livelihoods were at stake, said Mr Nath

India says it will seek a series of bilateral trade accords after talks to save a global trade treaty collapsed.

Trade minister Kamal Nath said the country was already looking at deals with the European Union and Japan.

He was speaking after attending talks in Geneva which failed to save the World Trade Organisation treaty.

The talks had aimed to resolve differences over cuts in farm subsidies by rich countries and import tariff reductions by poor countries.

The European Union accused the United States of inflexibility. The Americans said they preferred no deal at all to one that did not provide them with new business.

Asean blow

"Where India is concerned, we have entered into bilateral trade agreements. We will pursue our bilateral trade agreements," Mr Nath told a news conference in Delhi.

Kamal Nath
The US brought nothing to the table. They stuck to their old position
Indian trade minister Kamal Nath

"We are looking at, we are examining, economic co-operation agreements with the European Union. We are looking at co-operation agreements with Japan."

A number of Asian nations already have bilateral or regional trade agreements in place.

Industry groups say such deals have benefited India in recent years and point to exports growing at nearly 20% a year because of a rise in trade with Asian neighbours.

In apparent setback for India, the Asean group of South-East Asian nations said on Tuesday it was suspending free trade talks with India.

Malaysia's trade and industry minister Rafidah Aziz told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that the talks had become "difficult" and accused India of being reluctant to open its markets.

She said goods India wanted to exclude from the trade agreement accounted for about 30% of South-East Asia's exports to India, the Associated Press reports.

An Indian trade official told Reuters the country was still awaiting official notification of the move.

'Gaps in mind-sets'

Mr Nath said he was confident the failure of the so-called Doha round of talks would not hit India's economy, currently growing at about 8% a year.

He said attempts to save the talks had failed because of "big gaps in mind-sets" between rich and poor countries.

"The United States wants access for its subsidised agricultural products in India and other developing countries without cutting its huge farm subsidies."

He said India had wanted to focus on "enhancing the economies of developing countries, increasing trade flows from developing to developed countries".

"If the developed countries want to view this round as a market access round for themselves, which is going to impinge upon the livelihood of our farmers and is going to hurt our industry, then we made very clear there is and can be no further movement in these negotiations."

But he made clear that India still backed long-term WTO objectives to cut global trade barriers and that he would be talking with representatives of other developing countries to try to find a way forward.

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