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30 countries to resume talks on WTO: Nath

Trade officials plan to resume talks this month on a new global treaty based on an agreement made at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Hong Kong.

business Updated: Jan 15, 2006 13:37 IST

Top trade officials from 30 countries plan to resume talks this month on a new global treaty based on an agreement made at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Hong Kong, India's commerce minister said on Sunday.

The talks in Davos, Switzerland, will be held at a meeting on the sidelines of the annual World Economic Forum summit, which government and business leaders from around the world are expected to attend, saidCommerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath.

The forum's five-day meeting begins on January 25. After missing an initial target to set a framework for a new trade liberalisation treaty during the Hong Kong talks, ministers from the WTO's 149 member governments now aim to hammer out specifics of tariff and subsidy cuts on industrial and farm goods by the end of April.

In Hong Kong, they resolved some key issues that had earlier blocked progress in the talks.

These included an agreement to eliminate trade-distorting export subsidies to farmers by 2013; giving developing countries more flexibility in opening their markets to foreign competition; and giving exporters in the world's poorest nations duty-free access to wealthy countries' markets.

Nath, who emerged as an important negotiator during the Hong Kong talks, said some tricky issues- such as cutting domestic subsidies to farmers in rich countries - still need to be resolved to reach a new global trade treaty before the year ends.

Eliminating farm subsidies, which total billions of dollars a year, is a major demand of developing nations. They say such subsidies in the United States, Europe and Japan undercut the competitive advantage of farmers in poor countries, and threaten their livelihoods.

Nath said key WTO member nations- such as the United States, the European Union, India, Brazil, Japan and Australia - were also planning to hold bilateral meetings to expedite the talks. India plans to follow up the Davos talks with a bilateral meeting with the European Union in London on January 30, he said.

First Published: Jan 15, 2006 13:37 IST