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EU, US needs new mindset: Nath

Nath was dismissive of recent statements by WTO secretary general Pascal Lamy praising the "new offers" made by the US and the EU.

india Updated: Jun 06, 2006 16:10 IST

India's Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath says the ongoing World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations are headed for failure, unless developed countries, primarily the European Union (EU) and the US, show an entirely new mindset and put new offers on the table.

Nath was dismissive of recent statements by WTO secretary general Pascal Lamy praising the "new offers" made by the US and the EU.

"There has been no new offer from the developed world and that is where the problem lies. The gap between the developing countries and the developed world remains large and has not been narrowed down at all. For making a new offer, the developed countries need a new mindset," Nath told Europe's leading India-focused publication "India & You" in an exclusive interview during his recent trip to Paris.

"India & You" promotes India as a destination for both business and tourism and is distributed in 30 European and African countries. Its sister publication, INDES, is the only French language magazine devoted to India and is circulated in 17 countries.

Nath said that unless the new offer came from the developed world, the year-end deadline for the conclusion of the current round of negotiations, titled the "Doha Development Round", could not be met.

"I am of course an optimist and I do hope that something substantial and new will be put on the table soon so that we can move ahead on this round. But I am also very clear that we will not agree to any offer that is unacceptable just in order to save the round," he remarked.

The minister said India had already met its obligations in reducing tariffs on industrial and luxury goods. "We have already done what we are committed to."

He added that he was looking at further cuts in import tariffs on luxury goods but only if "it did not hurt the sensitivities of our own luxury goods industry, which is still in its infancy".

On agriculture, he once again firmly ruled out any negotiations on India's tariffs or market access. "For millions of India's farmers, it is a question of subsistence, not a subsidy. And subsistence can never be put on the table for negotiation. Subsidies should be discussed and negotiated and even phased out, but not when it involves the basic survival of the farming communities," said Nath.

On the issue of the Arcelor bid made by steel magnate L.N. Mittal, he said that the government had made an error in making a statement against the deal right in the beginning, which led to a vitiation of the atmosphere. However, the French government has now said that it will not interfere in the deal, calling it a purely commercial issue.

"In my discussions with the French government here, I told them what they are saying should also be followed up by actions," said Nath, refusing to predict whether the bid would succeed ultimately.

First Published: Jun 05, 2006 12:23 IST