Protectionism by any other name...

DEVELOPING nations expect a new regime of trade barriers if the industrialised countries succeed in getting non-economic issues like human rights and the environment included in the international trade talks. The apprehensions were clearly evident at the recently concluded G 15 summit in New Delhi, where the industrialised countries were criticised for "protectionist tendencies" by creating new areas of trade distortion.

Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao set the tone of the meeting in the inaugural speech. "We have reason to be concerned about attempts to undermine multilateralism and agreed frameworks for the liberalisation of trade," he said, adding that these are obviously aimed at creating a "new protectionist agenda". The Indonesian President, Kemusu Argamulju Suharto, warned that if the current global changes are not managed with care, the conflicts between the North and the South can well be replaced by an "equally pernicious divide".

The joint communique signed by the G 15 nations stressed the need for increased South-South cooperation to build up a strong front against Western demands.

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