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India sees signs of US flexibility

India is encouraged by the positive signals but warns that the long-delayed negotiations are still moving slowly.

business Updated: May 16, 2007 19:50 IST

India said on Wednesday it was encouraged by signs of flexibility by the United States in global free trade talks but warned the long-delayed negotiations were still moving slowly.

Some progress was made at discussions this month among officials from the United States, India, the European Union and Brazil, four key members of the World Trade Organisation, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said.

"The US signals have been positive at the officials' level and we are now looking forward for these positive signals to be converted into numbers," he said on the sidelines of an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development meeting. He gave no further details.

In the crucial issue of farm trade, Washington is under pressure to offer far deeper subsidy cuts but it has made further moves conditional on countries such as India opening up their markets more to US agricultural goods.

As part of any breakthrough between the four, the EU must lower farm tariffs while Brazil and India would have to agree to lower duties on industrial goods. But none of the four powers has yet spelled out what further it is prepared to do.

"From being at a standstill, there are steps forward. They are not leaps forward," Nath said.

The so-called G4, which represents a wide range of trade interests at the 150-state WTO, plans a series of ministerial meetings over the next few weeks, starting with talks in Brussels from May 17-18.

WTO chief Pascal Lamy says the WTO must achieve a draft deal in the five-year-old Doha trade round before the Geneva-based organisation takes its annual August break.

Without a blueprint in July, there will be no chance of clinching a full treaty on lowering barriers to business across the globe by the end of the year, and that in turn could trigger the final collapse of the negotiations, Lamy has warned.