G-20 Ministers To Discuss Strategy For WTO In June

New Delhi, May 30 | Updated: May 31 2004, 05:30am hrs
A ministerial-level meeting of the G-20 alliance of developing countries comprising India, China, Brazil and Argentina, among others, will take place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in June, to discuss the groups future strategy in the on-going agricultural discussions at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The meeting, which will take place on the sidelines of the eleventh quadrennial meeting (June 13-18) of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), will also be the first chance for commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath to prove his negotiating capabilities at multilateral fora.

According to commerce ministry officials, the G-20 meeting will be crucial as important developments have taken place in the recent weeks which will determine the future course of negotiations.

Following the EUs decision not to insist on its proposed blended formula for tariff reductions which was opposed by the G-20 on the grounds that it would allow developed countries to protect certain high tariff lines, the G-20 has recently come up with its own suggestion of a banded formula.

As per the formula, which is on the lines of the one proposed by former committee on agriculture chairman Stuart Harbinson, tariff lines would be divided into a number of bands with higher bands attracting higher tariff cuts. Within the bands, all tariff lines would be subject to average reductions.

The formula also provides flexibility to members to protect a limited number of sensitive products subject to certain conditions including imposition of minimum import quotas.

The proposal grants special and differential treatment to developing and least developed countries (LDCs) by allowing them lower reductions in tariffs and longer implementation periods.

The proposal will be taken up by all members at the CoA meeting beginning in Geneva on Wednesday.

The G-20 will also have to decide on how soon should developed countries lower their agriculture subsidies and to what extent. The group had earlier stated that without adequate reduction in farm subsidies, a deal in agriculture could not be arrived at.

WTO members are trying to agree on a negotiating framework on agriculture and non-agriculture by July this year as not much movement is expected to take place in the remaining months of the year due to the US Presidential elections in November.

The current negotiations which started in Doha, Quatar in November 2001 got a set-back last September when the fifth ministerial meeting in Mexico ended inconclusively mainly due to disagreement between developed and developing countries in the area of agriculture.