India Trade Minister Says Global Economy Set For Big Shift In Jobs

Upheaval at General Motors in Detroit is part of a new economic architecture that should lead rich and poor countries to consider a proposed global trade deal very carefully, India's trade minister said April 6. Trade Minister Kamal Nath, speaking at a seminar called "WTO and the Doha Round: The Way Forward," said that while General Motors retrenches workers in Detroit, it is recruiting in India.

"We are slowly seeing that the center of gravity (of the world economy) is switching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean," Nath told the seminar attended by World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Pascal Lamy. Nath said such a shift in jobs was unimaginable a decade ago. He said this should alert countries to consider all the implications of a new trade deal being pushed for by the end of the year, as it was inevitable that jobs from nations with ageing populations will shift to countries such as India where a majority of the 1.1 billion people are under the age of 25.

"The rules of the multilateral trading system must respond to the needs of the vast majority," Nath said. "The days are gone when you could make autos in Detroit and sell them to India."

Lamy was in the Indian capital to push for the conclusion of the latest round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks that began in Doha, Qatar in 2001. He said a deal to change global trade rules to benefit poorer countries needed an urgent push ahead of a week-long meeting of key WTO countries in Geneva starting April 18 and before a deadline at the end of the month. He said the main sticking points remain farm subsidies and tariff levels -- both for the U.S., EU and developing countries like India.

Trade ministers of the 150-nation WTO set the April deadline because special "fast-track" negotiation authority given by the U.S. Congress to the president expires at the end of the year and is not expected to be renewed.

Lamy said his trip to India was an attempt to bring "urgency" to the talks because India is a leader among the G-20 group of developing nations and, because its economy has opened up, New Delhi has a large stake in any agreement.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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