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WTO Protests: Tens of thousands demonstrate against WTO in India

AP Wire: NEW DELHI, India, Nov. 6 - Tens of thousands of people, many of them farmers, rallied in the Indian capital Tuesday, accusing the World Trade Organization of rules that favor developed nations.
The protesters demanded the government withdraw from the trade body if the WTO launches a new round of global talks.

''We will not talk about new issues until the existing imbalances in the WTO rules are corrected,'' said former Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh, who led the protest.

The United States and the European Union hope to get developing countries to agree to new negotiations at a meeting of WTO trade ministers starting Friday in Qatari capital of Doha.

India's government and business community have been hesitant about a new round, saying the developed countries have yet to fulfill commitments made in previous talks.

''The developed nations promised that they would cut subsidies to farmers, so that countries like India can export their agricultural products. But they have backtracked on their promise,'' Singh told the rally of more than 300,000 people.

Developed nations have raised more non-tariff barriers, while developing countries have had to reduce tariffs, open up to foreign investment and impose patent rules that have burdened their domestic industry, India says.

Singh said he met with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Friday. ''The prime minister assured me that India will not give in. But I am not convinced,'' Singh said.

''The government seems to be fearing isolation within the WTO,'' said Singh, who was India's prime minister in 1989-90.

''We should be able to stand alone if that is necessary to protect our national interest,'' he said. Developing countries have not received benefits promised in the 1993 Uruguay round of negotiations, which led to the formation of the WTO.

Those concerns were seen as largely responsible for the failure to launch a new round at the WTO's last ministerial meeting in Seattle in 1999.

This time, however, the possibility of the launch of a new round has increased partly because the WTO members are afraid to unite because of US and EU pressures.



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