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India, Brazil, SA trade to soar

Trade between Brazil, India and South Africa has risen sharply in the past few years and should soar once they seal a formal alliance.

india Updated: Mar 31, 2006 11:21 IST

Trade between Brazil, India and South Africa has risen sharply in the past few years and should soar once they seal a formal alliance, their foreign ministers said on Thursday.

The ministers, who met in Rio de Janeiro for the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum, also said they intended to forge multilateral deals on a separate track to the drawn-out talks between rich and poor nations on a global trade pact.

The three countries, which will hold a summit meeting in Brazil on September 12-13, are key members of the G20 group of developing nations in the negotiations within the World Trade Organization.

Trade between Brazil and India has more than doubled between 2001 and 2005 to $2.3 billion dollars from less than $1 billion, according to Brazilian figures presented by its Foreign Minister Celso Amorim.

With South Africa, trade volumes jumped to $1.7 billion from $700 million over the same period, according to Brazilian figures.

Amorim said South America's trade bloc Mercosur, of which Brazil is the dominant member, is working to join its bilateral trade agreements with the Southern African Customs Union, and with India, to have one pact.

"The aim here is to come to a free trade agreement," he said. "With a trilateral treaty trade would multiply. It isn't unthinkable to dream of $14-$15 billion in a few years' time," Amorim told a news conference.

WTO talks

Referring to tough negotiations between industrialized and developing countries within the World Trade Organization, Amorim said the "union of the three countries has changed the quality of WTO negotiations."

World Trade Organization members face an April 30 deadline to agree to formulas for cutting tariffs on agricultural and manufactured goods and cutting domestic farm subsidies. Negotiations have made little progress toward that goal since a WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December.

Amorim will meet US Trade Representative Rob Portman and European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson in Rio on Friday and Saturday for informal consultations. Amorim expected no decisions to be made there.

"These meetings are purely informal. I don't have the mandate to discuss anything on other countries' behalf. Nothing will be decided there, I don't want to say that it is going to fail, no. But we are only going to discuss ideas."

Portman said on Thursday he expected to make headway in global trade talks in Rio.

The Brazilian, Indian and South African ministers said they were concerned about possible consequences for developing countries exporting to the EU from a new EU chemicals legislation proposal known as REACH. Amorim said he would raise the issue with Mandelson and propose further discussions with relevant EU commissions.