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India Takes Lead in Speaking for Poor Nations at WTO Talks


India has taken the lead in speaking for developing nations at World Trade Organization talks in Hong Kong, which are supposed to focus largely on development issues.

India came to the negotiations demanding that rich countries give up subsidies and other supports to their farmers, an agenda that many other developing nations embrace. But by some accounts the issue is a possible deal breaker in World Trade Organization talks.

The United States and the European Union have both offered to reduce farm subsidies and tariffs, but not as much as many developing nations want.

They have called on India, with its comparatively large economy, to open its markets to their industrial products and services. The richer nations also say India should do more to help fellow developing nations by trading with them.

On Friday, Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath emphasized his point that rich countries' farm subsidies are preventing this from happening.

"India buys $500 million, roughly, of cotton - imports $500 million of cotton," said Kamal Nath. "Unfortunately, we can't do it from Africa, because of the subsidies given by the United States and the export credits given by the United States. So, developed countries need to first, also, see and correct the artificiality of prices which is created by virtue of their subsidies which inhibit south-south trade."

India has called for special treatment for developing countries, saying they need - among other things - more time to implement trade agreements than developed nations.

U.S. officials have countered by doubling their trade development assistance package to poor countries to $2.7 billion a year and other concessions.

Several developed countries, including the United States, have indicated they are willing to grant duty-free and quota-free market access to the world's very poorest nations. However, there are some exclusions to that, such as Bangladeshi textiles.

Bangladesh, a major producer of textiles, says it will insist on no less than a package that includes open access for its manufactured products to all markets.

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