PARIS, France, July 12,
2004, Ranvir Nayar, Indo-Asian News Service (IANS): India
has maintained its tough stance on not sacrificing the livelihood
of its 600 million farmers at discussions here to kick-start negotiations
at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, who was here to take part
in a pre-WTO discussion hosted by Brazil, said there had not been
any change in India's position on WTO issues despite a change of
government in Delhi.
Trade representatives from Australia, the European Union and the
US also attended the discussions.
Kamal Nath said India would continue to defend the interests of
its small and marginal farmers who depend on agriculture for their
"This is not about commercial agriculture and not about profits,
but about the livelihood of our farmers," Nath told IANS.
Analysts here said India's position on farming negotiations may
have only hardened since the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance
government has assumed power. They pointed out it had won mainly
on the rural vote and the government could not afford to be seen
as sacrificing the interests of its main constituency barely two
months after coming to power.
Kamal Nath later met French Trade Minister Francois Loos and held
discussions on bilateral trade and the way to boost relations. He
left for the Mauritian capital of Port Louis to take part in the
G-20 group meeting on WTO Monday-Tuesday.
The five countries that attended the Paris conclave constitute
the agriculture working group that has been given a tough mandate
by WTO secretary general Supachai Panitchpakdi for breaking the
deadlock over agriculture to take the negotiations ahead.
The last ministerial conference of WTO members collapsed in Cancun
last year following the European Union's refusal to end its export
subsidies and to open the market for imports from the developing
Since then, the leading players of the WTO, including India, have
been trying to get the negotiations going. The Paris discussions
were part of this effort.
However, though this is the third time that the five countries
are meeting, there does not seem to have been much progress, with
each of the five ministers contenting themselves in referring to
the Paris meeting as "useful".
European Union trade commissioner Pascal Lamy hinted at the level
of differences between the members of the group, saying much work
remained ahead if there was to be any agreement to revive the Doha
US trade representative Robert B. Zoellick said though there were
convergences and potentialities for convergence, the challenge for
the group remained immense. "However, the fact that we decided
to meet itself proves our commitment to find a resolution to these
issues," he said.
Brazilian Trade Minister Luis Fernando Furlan, who hosted the meeting,
said the Paris meeting was not the final, but only part of a process.
He, however, skipped a question on whether the group would be able
to meet the deadline of reaching an agreement before the end of
July in order to have a proposal at the Geneva gathering of WTO