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Govt braces for opposition at Cancun

New Delhi, Sept. 5: The cabinet committee on WTO affairs met here today to take stock of the latest situation on the eve of commerce minister Arun Jaitley's departure for the Cancun conference.

Sources say EU commissioner Pascal Lamy's attempt to cause a rift between India and Brazil, the two countries spearheading the cause of the developing countries, came up for discussion at the meeting.

India's counter-offer on the agricultural sector supported by a group of 20 developing nations appears to have stumped the western countries. They are expected to step up their efforts to split the ranks of the developing countries.

The task of the US and EU will be made easier by the fact that several underdeveloped countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia are heavily dependent on the western nations for their economic survival. Jaitley and his team will, therefore, be under some pressure to avoid being isolated at the WTO negotiations.

India's overall approach will to be to staunchly oppose the US and EU on the trade distorting domestic support and export subsidies that are extended to the agriculture sector in these countries.

Indian negotiators will continue to retain the moral high ground in arguing for a development perspective to the agenda at Cancun around which the developing countries can rally.

India has already opposed the revised draft ministerial text proposed for the Cancun meeting on the ground that it does not provide the developing countries with the necessary levels of comfort to make major contributions in market access expected by the developed nations.

Jaitley's team is expected to strongly argue for treating each Singapore issue separately. India plans to stay firm on its stand that foreign direct investment which has been included in the Singapore package is not trade-related and, therefore, should not be included in the WTO negotiations.

However, in case the resistance of the other developing countries breaks down, India is likely to allow for some flexibility in its position on trade facilitation, transparency in government procurement and competition policy which constitute the remaining three Singapore issues.

Jaitley's team will also take up on a priority basis the case for a more liberal visa regime for the cross-border movement of professionals. This issue is expected to put the US and EU on the defensive.

The Indian team will also take up on a priority basis the case for a more liberal visa regime for the cross-border movement of professionals. This issue is expected to put the US and EU on the defensive.

Sources disclose that Jaitley will also be apprising Congress leader Manmohan Singh on the latest developments and the stand that India will take at Cancun.

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