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G-20 puts stamp on free trade

New Delhi, Nov. 23: Finance ministers and central bank governors of the G 20 nations agreed upon a nine-point charter at the end of the meeting today. Among other things, they decided on early removal of trade barriers and phase-out of trade distorting subsidies. The charter also pledges to take more measures to eliminate terror funding.

“Reduction of the remaining trade and related barriers and phasing out of trade-distorting subsidies would contribute to spreading the benefits of globalisation,” finance minister Jaswant Singh told newspersons after the meeting.

However, though the group agreed to place checks on money laundering and terror financing, it could not make much headway on methods to stop funding of terrorist groups.

“There can be no universal methods in stopping the funding of terrorism. Countries will have to adopt different methods depending on their level of developments,” Singh said.

There is a need to address all aspects of financing terrorism. “The mechanism that are adopted by various terrorist group and the movement of money. We have recently witnessed that terrorist organisations do not always rely on the movement of currency. There have been examples of terrorist groups moving away from currency to tradebale goods,” he added.

The US and European countries, which have long suspected that the Islamic banking system of using hawalas is being exploited by terrorist organisations like Al Qaida, had demanded all G-20 nations and eventually others license hawala operators, forcing them to register and bring transparency in the system so as to check misuse by terror outfits.

Some Asian nations have, however, been resisting the move arguing vast majority of those using the hawala system are normal, law-abiding citizens who rely on it as a less expensive and more confidential alternative to bank transfers of funds.

The meeting which reviewed the progress in implementing the action plan to combat terror funding, including freezing of terrorists' assets and exchange of information, however, agreed to continue efforts to eliminate other abuses of the financial system, particularly, money laundering.

Concerned over the fact that globalisation has increased the gap between poorer countries and developed nations, Francois Loos, French minister of trade and commerce said, “We have to devise assistance and aid for poorer nations so that globalisation has a positive effect.”

The G-20 members also decided to host the their next meeting in Mexico in 2003, Singh said.

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