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India backs package for poor nations

WTO DG Pascal Lamy has suggested that all issues be split into 3 groups & approached at diff speeds - in fast, medium and slow lanes.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jun 02, 2011, 03.40 AM IST
NEW DELHI: India is keen to support an "early harvest'' package mainly targetting least developed countries (LDCs) in December at the World Trade Organisation--a move that could help dispel notions that its hard stance on tariff elimination on industrial goods was preventing poor countries from benefiting from a concluded Doha round.

WTO DG Pascal Lamy has suggested that all issues be split into three groups and approached at different speeds - in fast, medium and slow lanes.

The Doha round for liberalising trade in goods and services launched in November 2001 has reached a stalemate with the US and the EU demanding that big developing countries like India, China and Brazil eliminate tariffs on a few industrial products like chemicals, electronics & electricals and industrial products.

"India does not want to be seen as a game spoiler for LDCs as we have always supported their cause. We want to protect our interest without harming the interest of poor countries and feel that an early harvest package is a good idea," a government official told ET.

The mandate for the Doha round talks about duty-free and quota free market access for LDC's products and additional measures to improve market access. This would include elimination of export subsidies on cotton by the US to help revive markets for cotton growing African countries.

Last week, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said there was a unanimous resolve emerging among trade ministers from key WTO countries that a package of deliverables which had at its heart the interests of LDCs be accorded priority and efforts made to fast track negotiations in those areas for conclusion by end December. He spoke after attending an informal meeting of trade ministers from about 20 countries including Brazil, China, the EU, US and Australia on the sidelines of the OECD meeting in Paris.

"While the WTO is talking in terms of a LDC plus package by December, India would be happy to support a package even if it is limited to benefits for LDCs," the official said.

In a meeting of the WTO's trade negotiations committee--the body overseeing negotiations on all topics--on Wednesday, member countries agreed that a package for least-developed countries is the most urgent and feasible priority for a first-step Doha Round outcome at the December 2011 ministerial meeting, with another group of issues - a "plus" currently being discussed - having the next level of priority.
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