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Developed world must change mindset: Nath

The trade ministers from leading economies will get together for a mini-ministerial of the WTO on Saturday.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2006 13:13 IST

Developed countries need to show a clear change in their mindset if negotiations under the WTO are to make any headway, says Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath.

Nath, who arrived on Thursday, said this barely a few hours before meeting trade ministers from various countries who have assembled for the World Economic Forum (WEF) currently under way in this Swiss resort town.

The trade ministers from leading economies will get together for a mini-ministerial of the WTO on Saturday.

"The aim of this meeting is not to conduct negotiations, but to actually lay the roadmap for the negotiations. We would like to set the flags and the timelines and to lay the path that the negotiations will take," Kamal Nath told IANS on the sidelines of the WEF meet.

But he was candid about the difficulties that lie ahead for the negotiators. For any real progress to be achieved in the negotiations, the developed countries need to make a clean break from the past and change the way they have been treating the global trade negotiations, he says.

"Developed countries have been showing the mindset of the 1980s and 1990s. This is not going to lead to any progress.

"The biggest problem is that the developed world is refusing to set right the flaws in their own trade policies and are asking the developing world to make significant concessions if the flaws in the developed country policies have to be rectified.

"They say if you want us to change our agricultural subsidy policies and make a level playing field, then you need to make concessions. This is not at all acceptable to the developing countries. We want the flaws in policies to be rectified before we undertake the negotiations on what is the next step."

The developed world needs to move ahead and change its mindset on global trade rules, Kamal Nath said. "I hope they will change their mindset. I am hopeful," he said.

As if on cue, European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson issued a warning that the EU will not make any concessions in the upcoming negotiations and that it had done all it could do to facilitate the negotiations. Mandelson's warning came during an address in Berlin Monday.

So as the trade ministers sit down to give some meaning to the agreement reached at Hong Kong they surely will be aware of the numerous potholes that lie on the road ahead, especially if an agreement has to be reached on schedule, or in under 12 months.

First Published: Jan 27, 2006 13:13 IST