‘India keen to finish Doha talks, but not under pressure’


The Financial Express (India)
From FE Bureau
July 30, 2009

New DelhiWhile maintaining that India has political will to see a successful conclusion of the Doha Round of world trade talks, commerce minister Anand Sharma on Wednesday asserted that there should not be any timelines ascribed for completion of the process. Commerce secretary Rahul Khullar also stressed that the pace of negotiations on the trade liberalisation round, expected to gather steam by September, could slow down if the world does not see any economic recovery during the forthcoming quarter.

“We have the political will. We feel as a responsible developing nation that sincere endeavor should be there to take this process to logical, right and successful conclusion,” Sharma said at a meeting organised by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

However, he was quick to add that pressure of any kind would be unwelcome. “As we move forward (in Doha talks), we will have to be careful that we make progress in substance and not pressurised by time lines,” Sharma said.

The Doha Round of trade talks have been going on since late 2001 and when finalised is likely to bring down duties of goods across the world, eliminate subsidies enjoyed by large farmers in developed countries, and lead to enhanced market access for service related industries like information technology and tourism.

Talks on the round have been in a logjam since July, 2008, when senior trade ministers failed to arrive at a consensus at a WTO meet on contentious issues like trigger mechanism on initiating enhanced duty against farms products seeing import surge.”The Doha agreement could be a catalyst for the combined international effort to break free from the economic crisis,” Sharma said. He also insisted that the WTO talks should start from where it had paused. “Focus should be to reenergise and not to reinvent,” Sharma said. According to Sharma’s written speech, the draft texts released in December 2008, mapping the progress of the the Doha Round, should form the basis for further negotiations. The minister also took a tough stance on proposals from some nations to skip some modalities enshrined under the WTO to expedite the round’s closure. “ These new approaches are all euphemisms for getting members to reveal where their sensitivities lie. This is not acceptable to India and the majority of the WTO members. There must first be agreement on modalities,” Sharma said.

Sharma used to occasion to reaffirm India ‘s stand on ensuring that the round leads to elimination of norms, which give some developed countries undue advantage. “What is important is that the mandate of the Doha process is development. It is at the core of the Doha process which has to be recalled and emphasised at every stage,”.

Sharma maintained the same stand at the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. After taking over as the commerce minister, Sharma has said that the Doha round impasse “has been broken”, which created lot of flutters amongst political as well as civic society groups as it was perceived that India was going soft on its position.

Sharma’s comments today comes about a month ahead of the informal New Delhi ‘mini-ministerial level meeting’, where the European Union, US are expected to attend along with the G-20 nations with defensive interests in the farm sector. According to Sharma, the call on releasing any formal declaration after the Delhi meet will be taken by the participating trade ministers.

Commerce secretary Rahul Khullar, a veteran trade negotiator, said that there are practical realities also to be taken under consideration in the Doha Round, and a swift movement of talks may not be possible.


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