Geneva: In a plain-speak to the developed countries, India on Friday said global trade cannot progress if interests of three-fourths of the world's population are held "hostages" to the commercial interests of a few.
    
"Development is a global good. Trade cannot flourish, if the interests of three-fourths of the world's population are held hostage to the commercial interests of the few that already command global trade," India's Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said at the WTO Ministerial Conference here.
    
Sharma also conveyed India's strong reservations on proposals which seek to get global trade agreements involving only a small number of WTO members, overlooking a large majority of the 154 members.
    
"I have heard suggestions for negotiating issues amongst a critical mass of members. This path is fraught with risk. Plurilateral agreements are a throwback to the days when decisions taken by a few determined the future of the rest," he said.
    
Since no agreement could be achieved in the last 10 years in Doha negotiations, it has been suggested by rich countries like the US that the key members of developed and developing groupings can sit in smaller groups and work out deals. India is vehemently opposing it.
    
But to show flexibility, Sharma said on its part, New Delhi is open to considering new issues within the mandates of the regular WTO organs as long as these are discussed in inclusive and transparent manner.
    
"The world is not static. Nor are the challenges and issues that affect global trade," he said.
    
Sharma also cautioned against protectionism being resorted to by some countries through new instruments. "The challenge is to deal with these new forms of protectionism that tend to militate more against developing countries."  India said that the countries which were once "harbingers of free trade" have themselves started looking inwards.
    
Sharma said protectionist measures must be resisted by all WTO members and the multilateral institutions must be strengthened.
   
"In the challenging backdrop of global economic downturn, all countries must eschew protectionism which can only be counter-productive as it will deepen the recession and delay recovery," Sharma said.
    
The need of the hour is enhanced economic engagement and free flow of trade, he said.
    
He said the global community must maintain the spirit of multilateralism.
    
Praising efforts of the multilateral agency he said, "The WTO has stood as a bulwark against a rising tide of protectionism."

(Agencies)