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WTO Chief throws weight behind Indian farmers

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New Delhi, Apr 6 (UNI) Throwing his weight behind New Delhi's stand on agriculture, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy today asked the Indian farmers to fight for their rights without quitting the World Trade Organisation.

''If your problem is to try and get fairer trade in agriculture, less biased trade in agriculture, then you need the rules to be changed. You need subsidies to be slashed and there is no way you can get it outside the WTO,'' Mr Lamy said during his interaction with the representatives of Indian farmers.

Addressing a press conference alongwith Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath, the WTO Chief said India has both offensive and defensive interest in agricutltre.

However, he was of the firm view that it would serve India and its farmers well if the country, which by now has become a dynamic economy in the world, went out and fought for a fair world trade and improved market access for its farmers rather than going about in a defensive way.

This is because there is much more confidence about opening of the Indian economy now than it was in the past.

''It was a hotly debated topic 10-15 years ago. But now it is a consensus, because WTO has a system that makes trade easier,'' he said.

Mr Lamy, in his two-day visit here, has had wide consultations with various stakeholders, members of the civil society and economic think tanks. More importantly, he had meetings with Prime Minster Dr Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, which enabled him to gauge the mood of the Indian leadership as to which way the Doha Round negotiations can proceed.

The Doha Round negotiations are racing against time and the most important and active players like the EU, US, and members of the G-20 would like the Round to conclude by December 31, 2006.

If for some reasons the Round is not wrapped up by the end of this year. the entire multilateral system of negotiations may face the danger of collapse because the fast-track authority, which rests with the US President, will expire early next year.

The WTO Chief made no bones about it when asked whether it was fair for 149 countries to be dictated by the US imposed deadline.

''It is a matter of reality,'' he said.

UNI SR-PC SS BD1646

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