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'Duty-free package for least developed countries soon'

Govt will shortly announce a duty-free and quota-free package to enhance trade with least developed countries, reports Gaurav Choudhury.

india Updated: Sep 10, 2007, 22:06 IST
Gaurav Choudhury
Gaurav Choudhury
Hindustan Times

The government will shortly announce a duty-free and quota-free package to enhance trade with least developed countries, particularly from the African continent.

Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said that the Cabinet would take up the matter shortly, and it could be as early as next week.
“A consultation process is going on. It will go to the Cabinet next week,” Nath said.

The minister also said that the package would have no bearing on the ongoing negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

“India is keen to share its expertise with Africa in the fields of industry, trade and investment”, he said at a conference jointly organised by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the Central government in the Capital.

Duty-free and quota-free concessions were sought from “advanced developing countries” like India, China and Brazil at the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December 2005 when these issues were debated.

The rich countries agreed to extend this concession on 97 per cent of tariff lines, though that left a gap where products sensitive to rich economies such as textiles could be exempted.

The plan will benefit some of the world’s poorest nations in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific regions. These countries, 34 of which are peppered across the African continent, mostly export primary agricultural products like tea, sugar and bananas.

The multi-pronged development package includes an over-arching proposal of “quota-free, duty-free” access for all 50 least developed countries to markets in rich nations by 2008.

Developing nations like Brazil, China and India have agreed to the idea but said it should be implemented in a selective way. Least developed countries’ share in the world merchandise trade is less that one per cent.

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