WTO strategy finetuned, all set for Hong Kong

New Delhi, Nov 21 | Updated: Nov 22 2005, 05:30am hrs
The group of ministers (GoM) on World Trade Organisation (WTO) issues met on Monday to take a view on Indias negotiating strategy for the Hong Kong ministerial meet next month in the backdrop of the recent developments at the multilateral forum.

Speaking to reporters after the meet, a top ministry official said that the negotiating strategy had more or less been finalised.

Indias negotiating team led by commerce minister Kamal Nath subsequently left for Geneva to attend the G-4 meeting which includes India, Brazil, the EU and the US. Ministers from Japan and Australia are also expected to attend the meet as invitees. The meeting will take place on Tuesday.

The ministers will make a last-ditch attempt to narrow differences on major issues including agriculture and non-agriculture market access to arrive at some kind of convergence of views before the WTO ministerial meet which begins on December 13 in Hong Kong.

While members have given up hopes of agreeing on modalities for tariff and subsidy reductions in Hong Kong, sources say that the attempt would now be to agree on a range of numbers. The range could be the basis for arriving at exact numbers at a later stage, source said.

The ongoing negotiations are stuck on all fronts. In agriculture, members have not been able to agree on anything be it the tariff reduction formula, special products, subsidy reduction or special safeguard mechanism for developing countries.

India will not agree to substantial tariff reductions till developed countries agree to remove their agriculture subsidies.

In the area of non-agriculture market access (Nama) for non-agricultural products, India, together with Argentina and Brazil, has demanded that the tariff reduction formula should be based on average tariffs of members.