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Textiles quotas deadline to be kept: WTO official

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, APRIL 13. Despite pressures on countries not to phase out quotas, the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing is not likely to be extended beyond the deadline of 2005. This was disclosed here today by the Deputy Director General of the World Trade Organisation, Kiporir Aly Azad Rana.

Addressing a meeting organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), he said requests had been received for extension of the deadline for continuing the quota regime in textiles and clothing. Member countries, however, appear to be determined not to do so.

Mr. Rana noted that major textile exporting countries such as India with low wages were likely to benefit enormously by the phasing out of quotas. These were now viewed as a restriction by sourcing companies like Walmart and JC Penney, which had already indicated that apparel sourcing from India would rise after the quotas were phased out.

Regarding the growth of regional and bilateral trade agreements, he stressed that there was no substitute for multilateralism. He felt the proliferation of regional trade agreements and bilateral agreements was like building blocks, thereby assisting the larger multilateral fora. He said poorer countries were increasingly using the multilateral fora to push forward their agenda, which was commendable. Therefore, he asserted that multilateralism was here to stay.

At the same time, he said the negotiating process had now become much more complex and difficult as least developing countries (LDCs) had started to assert themselves. But, he said, any process built around globalisation and liberalisation would have challenges and the global business community would have to meet them.

Referring to the contentious issue of agriculture, he said development aspects must be integrated into the overall agriculture package. He said the WTO was trying to find more imaginative ways to sort out the problem. He disclosed that there was a new chair on agriculture and by mid-July, a framework for discussion on the issue is expected to be ready.

In addition, the visiting WTO official said consensus was emerging on the issues of trade facilitation. Outlining the negotiating process, he said the business community had to evolve along with trade negotiations. Earlier, many countries were negotiating without consulting the business community, but now it was different, he said.

Earlier, R. V. Kanoria, Chairman, CII WTO Committee, said that Doha negotiations were delicately poised.

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