Attempting once again to highlight concerns of developing countries, India is kicking off a two-day international trade seminar here over the ongoing debate in the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Developed nations, led by the United States and the European Union, have focused on increasing market access, and duty cuts in agriculture and industrial products, to revive the Doha Round of talks at WTO.
“There is a growing concern among several developing countries, including India, that the talks at WTO are getting too focused on agriculture and industrial goods. The Doha Round is a single undertaking and is mandated to have a development focus. We are therefore trying to garner support to ensure that other issues of interest to the developing countries do not get pushed aside,” a commerce ministry official, who did not want to be named, told Mint.
The seminar is being attended by WTO director-general Pascal Lamy and trade ministers of a dozen countries including Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, Benin, Guyana, South Africa and Argentina.
The seminar is being held ahead of G-33, an influential group of developing countries, meeting at Bandung in Indonesia on 21 March.
WTO negotiations, which were on hold for six months until January, are yet again under way and trying to wrap up the outlines of an agreement among 150 economies before the Bush administration loses its negotiating mandate from the US Congress in July.
Commerce ministry officials said the next round of G-4 meetings, between trade ministers of the US, the EU, Brazil and India, is expected to be held in April.
The issues slated to be discussed at the seminar include farm subsidies given by the developed countries and giving more time to developing countries to reduce tariffs on non-agricultural goods.
The commerce ministry official familiar with the developments said developed countries tend to overlook the fact that when their economic growth was at the level that most developing countries are now witnessing, the duties on their industrial products were much higher.
“The industries of the developed countries have thrived due to protection but they want to deny developing countries this right,” he said.
He added that developing countries were similarly keen to push for free trade in services at par with the developed countries’ efforts to push for free trade in agriculture and industrial goods.
“We are not asking for immigration but for easier movement of our skilled contractual service providers. Such movement is restricted by the developed countries on grounds that minimum wage of developing countries is not at par,” the official pointed out.
The EU, supported by Washington, has proposed setting 10% as the maximum tariff for developed countries and 15% for developing nations.
A group of 10 developing countries, officially called the NAMA-11 and including India, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Egypt, has insisted poorer states will cut manufacturing tariffs only by a much smaller amount than developed countries.