|Saturday, 12 January 2002|
India says developing countries marginalised from setting WTO agenda
BANGALORE, India, Jan 10 (AFP) - Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Murasoli Maran Thursday said developing countries had been marginalised from setting the agenda for world trade negotiations.
"One thing I want to underscore with pain and anguish; developing countries have no effective say or role in the agenda-setting process of (trade) negotiations," Maran told a business conference.
He said bitter wrangling at two World Trade Organisation (WTO) general council meetings held in October last year reflected how frustrated developing countries were that the draft declarations failed to reflect their views.
"Holding consultations with various groups by themselves do not increase transparency if there cannot be sufficient co-relation between what transpires during these consulations and what finally appears as draft," Maran said.
"What developing countries find difficult to digest is that often we are required to take politically impossible measures that provoke a backlash instead of encouraging us to take up reforms at our own pace," said Maran.
"(The) one-size-fits-all approach creates problems ... countries have their own culture, needs, desires. This should be considered and respected. We need free trade not coercive trade."
Addressing over 300 domestic and foreign delegates, Maran said that during the WTO ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar in November last year, texts appeared "by the hour."
"Who prepared the avalanche of drafts after draft? Why? We do not know. In the eleventh hour they produced a draft like a magician producing a rabbit out of his hat," said Maran.
"Negotiations should be well planned, giving sufficient notice and time for countries to examine and respond to issues."
Trade ministers from 144 countries agreed in November to launch a new round of trade talks after the meeting in Doha, Qatar, which hammered out an agenda to help forge a new world trade deal by 2005.
Developing countries such as India did not want certain issues, such as the environment, to be linked to trade rules because they fear that western countries will use them to discriminate against their imports.
WTO member countries from the developing world finally conceded to European Union demands that investment, competition and environment rules be put on the agenda.
India said it had "yielded some ground on environment" in order to gain substantially on agriculture matters.
Maran slammed developed countries for raising "novel" non-tariff barriers to fair trade.
"World trade looks like a one-way street. You could drive down it
from the North but the road is normally blocked from the South," said
Produced by Lake House