Doha Round in last lap of 25-mile marathon: Sharma


Business Standard (India)
By Lalit K Jha/ PTI / Washington
June 19, 2009

Comparing the Doha Round of WTO trade negotiations to a 25-mile marathon, India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said the talks are in its last lap and hoped that countries would show flexibility in arriving at an agreement.

The need of the hour is a rule-based multilateral trading regime, which takes on board developmental aspirations of the poor countries and at the same time ensures better access for all. "That is what we shall be striving for," Sharma told reporters at a press conference here.

He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made commitments that the Doha trade talks, the latest round of which was stalled in July 2008, be concluded successfully.

"That is the mandate I have from the Prime Minister, who feels that the present economic crisis, which the world is facing there should be a positive message for global trade barriers to be broken down further and global trade to move, which will help economies across the globe," Sharma said.

"I am sure that President Obama wishes the same, and that’s the feeling I got from (US Trade Representative) Ron Kirk. When political leaders discuss issues, they paint the larger canvass and not be bogged down by smaller details. If you have the larger picture in mind and you are committed to take it forward the details can always be filled," he said.

Observing that the present dismal global economic scenario is both a challenge and an opportunity, he said the countries who can play a role, who can define the road map, must work with sincerity and openness to give hope to millions across the world that "we will allow free movement of people and free movement of trade and service".

Terming the logjam that hit the Doha Round as unfortunate, he said this was because of non-convergence on many issues. "We hope that we would find a common meeting ground. We must try and harmonise the respective positions, which are important," he said.

A practical and correct approach is not to let go waste what was invested over years. But to accept the progress, which is substantial and significant, he argued.

Noting that there is a need to correct the distortions and to harmonise respective positions, Sharma said: "That could only be done by give and take to find the middle route. That is what we intend to do. It is achievable. If you remain rooted and frozen in the pre negotiating position then no negotiations for global treaties is possible."

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