The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Panel to hasten decisions on WTO issues

New Delhi, Nov. 11: The government today formed a committee comprising five ministers to discuss trade-related issues under the aegis of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The issues relate to the tariff structure on farm products like cereals, sugar, tobacco where India has a lot at stake.

“A group of ministers (GoM) has been formed to shorten the time taken for decision making on WTO-related issues and bring to the notice of the Prime Minister any issues that might warrant his attention,” disinvestment minister Arun Shourie told reporters after the meeting.

“The group will comprise finance minister Jaswant Singh, external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, agriculture minister Ajit Singh, law minister K. Jana Krishnamurthy and myself,” said Shourie.

Shourie has been given additional charge of the commerce and industry ministry because the incumbent — Murasoli Maran — has been ailing since September and has gone to the US for treatment.

The government is expected to present its case on the higher tariff rates imposed by countries like the United States, Canada, European Union along with Australia and New Zealand on imports of farm products.

Shourie also said that as far as the WTO negotiations on agriculture are concerned, the committee today discussed the principal guidelines which the negotiators must follow during the discussions to be taken up in Geneva later this month.

“The committee will take decisions on India’s negotiating position on agriculture and other items which will keep coming up between now and next September when the Cancun round of talks will take place,” Shourie told reporters.

Sources say the committee's main effort will be to reduce the peak tariffs on farm imports imposed by these developed countries and provide protection for locally produced farm products.

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