The mini-ministerial organised by Switzerland will take place on January 29 on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Ministers from about 30 countries including India, the US, the EU, Brazil, Australia, Pakistan, China and Japan will attend the meet. India will be represented by commerce minister Kamal Nath.
While taking stock of the progress made in negotiations since the July framework was signed last year, the mini-ministerial would attempt to draw a roadmap for a productive ministerial meet in Hong Kong in December.
A successful Hong Kong ministerial would be instrumental in making possible the conclusion of the Doha development round by 2006-end. The earlier deadline of concluding talks by December 31, 2004 has lapsed.
Speaking to FE, commerce ministry officials said that Indias focus in the mini-ministerial would be on non-agriculture market access. It would seek tariff reduction commitments from developed countries for manufacturing products especially textiles.
While the quantitative restrictions (QRs) on imports imposed by the US, the EU and Canada on textiles have been lifted since the beginning of the year, high tariffs on a number of textile products are acting as a barrier to market penetration. We want commitments on reduction of tariff peaks, an official said.
The mini-ministerial will be preceeded by a meeting of the G-20 group of developing countries in agriculture. Brazil, one of the important players in the G-20 along with India and China, will chair the session. Officials said that members of the G-20 group would decide on their future course of action at the meet including finding ways to make developed countries give a time-frame for reduction and elimination of farm subsidies.
The fifth WTO ministerial meet in Cancun, Mexico, in September 2003 had failed to move forward the Doha development round launched in the Quatari capital in late 2001. Disagreement over agriculture issues between the developed and the developing countries was the main reason behind the collapse of talks.
In July 2004, however, members attempted to put the talks back on track by agreeing on a weak framework to move negotiations ahead. Precious little has happened since then with crucial decisions on deciding on a date for reduction and elimination of farm subsidies and percentage reduction of tariffs still pending.