Rubens Ricupero, secretary general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), suggested to the Indian newspaper The Hindu that the success of the 10-14 September ministerial meeting would depend on how it tackled issues such as access to rich countries' markets - a key demand of India and other developing countries.

He complained of a "disquieting development" in countries taking "contingent protective measures" against textile imports ahead of the elimination of textile quotas by 2005 under the WTO.

Ricupero expressed concern about tariffs affecting exports from developing countries and proposed special consideration in trade talks for "sensitive products" such as agricultural produce and commodities, garments, leather goods, footwear and rubber.

He also said the WTO could be undermined due to the increase of regional trade arrangements, especially those concluded by major trading nations.

"They (regional agreements) can lead to an erosion of the cardinal principles of non-discrimination and MFN (most favoured nation) treatment under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)/WTO," he said.

On Wednesday, India, China and Brazil led a group of developing countries in unveiling a new proposal on how to reform global agricultural trade, calling for a substantial reduction of all subsidies to farmers.

The joint statement came in response to a separate proposal drafted between the United States and European Union.