End all subsidies, developing countries tell rich nations
[India News]: New Delhi, March 19 : The group of 20 developing countries (G-20) ended a two-day meeting hosted by India here Saturday with a joint declaration that asks rich nations to end all forms of exort subsidies in five years.

In a rare show of unity in the group with diverse interests and positions among the members, the declaration also called on developed countries to substantially reduce trade-distorting domestic support, but did not specify a timeframe.

The two-day meeting focussed on issues related to agriculture in the ongoing negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), but areas like services, non-agriculture market access and trade facilitation were also discussed.

"We had a very productive meeting. We have not only shown that G-20 is alive and kicking, but doing that in a forceful manner," Brazilian Trade Minister Celso Amorim told reporters at a joint press conference addressed by all delegates.

"It is essential that G-20 gets permanently mobilised," he said. "We have shown for the first time that trade liberalisation and social concerns can go together," he added, in reference to parallel discussions with NGOs.

"The gathering here signals a coming together in the common cause of almost the entire developing world," said the event's host and India's Commerce Minister Kamal Nath. "We had a composite assessment of play in the ongoing trade talks."

The two-day meeting also had the participation of other groups like Least Developed Countries (LDC), the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP) and the Caribbean Group (Caricom).

The main purpose of the two-day deliberations was to ensure that the interests and concerns of G-20 member countries are addressed in the final outcome of the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong in December.

The agenda for the G-20 meeting included discussions on the three pillars of the ongoing farm talks - export competition, domestic support and market access - as also other issues like the interests of least developed countries.

The participating countries were Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, China, Cuba, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

The declaration signed by the participating countries articulates common strategy and position, and reaffirms the commitment to make progress in the Doha Development Round and arrive at an agreement as scheduled.

On the crucial issue of market access, the ministers reaffirmed the long held view of the G-20 that the tariff reduction formulae is the main component and should be negotiated before the issue of flexibilities.

The tariff-reduction formulae, the declaration says, must be progressive, ensure proportionality for developing countries and allow flexibility by taking into account the sensitive nature of some products.

The trade ministers also stressed that special and differential treatment for developing countries must constitute an integral part of all elements with a view to preserving food security, rural development and livelihood concerns.

They also stressed that the elimination of tariff escalation is important for developing countries, as it would help them to diversify and increase their export revenues by adding value to their produce.

But they expressed concern that developed countries were increasingly using non-tariff barriers that are acting as impediments to exports and detrimental to the interests of developing countries.

The trade ministers and delegates were also treated to a cultural programme and gala dinner Friday at the picturesque settings of a ruined medieval fort. They also had a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier in the day.

--Indo-Asian News Service