Warm-up drill today for WTO representatives


The Economic Times (India)
IST, ET Bureau
September 2, 2009

NEW DELHI: Senior trade officials from key member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including India, the US, EU, Australia,
Brazil, South Africa, China and Egypt, will meet on Wednesday to set the tone for the mini-ministerial meeting that would take place on the following two days. India will try to ensure that officials do not get into hard-core negotiations and instead work towards putting in place a road map for concluding the Doha negotiations by 2010, a commerce department official, who did not wish to be named, told ET.

“We do not want the meeting to end in bitterness. That is why we want members to try and set time schedules for completion of various issues that are part of the negotiations instead of trying to resolve issues,” the official said.

Since the New Delhi meeting is informal and involves around 37 countries (which represent about 100 odd countries) and not the entire membership, it will also not be a suitable occasion for holding full-fledged negotiations, the official added.

The discussion paper circulated by India for the senior officials meeting talks about setting up time frames for concluding talks not only in agriculture and Nama (non-agriculture market access or industrial goods), but also in services.

“There was a signalling conference in services during the mini-ministerial in July last year. But nothing much happened after that. We would just like to emphasise that members need to be alive to the need of concluding the services talks, too, in a time-bound manner,” the official said.

When the ongoing Doha round of talks broke down in July 2008, the two issues that were identified as the deal breakers were the special safeguard mechanism for protecting developing country farmers and the sectoral negotiations on Nama. While the US and some food exporting countries wanted to allow developing countries to increase tariffs beyond ceiling levels only when import surges were very high, India and other developing countries wanted lower trigger points. In the discussions related to eliminating tariffs in certain identified industrial sectors, while the US wants to make participation mandatory by linking it to other flexibilities, including lower reduction in average tariffs, India and some others want it to be strictly voluntary.


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