Negotiations can narrow down Doha gaps: India

Negotiations can narrow down Doha gaps: India

Sharma said trade ministers meeting in Paris this week had agreed to resume negotiations by building on the work of recent years, where much convergence had been achieved.

“We have also reaffirmed unambiguously India’s commitment to take the Doha process to a successful conclusion,” he told reporters.

Sharma said ministers had agreed that negotiating texts drawn up in December, ahead of a proposed meeting that was called off at the last moment, would be the basis of further negotiations. Reaching a deal in the Doha talks was particularly important because of the severe economic crisis, he added.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy says the deal is 80 percent agreed, but the talks have stumbled repeatedly and have been in stalemate since a meeting of ministers last July failed to clinch a blueprint agreement.

India’s WTO ambassador Ujal Singh Bhatia said suspicion had built up since the negotiations stalled in July.  “What these discussions have done is remove the underbrush so now the whole negotiating situation is clear,” he said.

“That doesn't mean that whatever the gains are, they are going to be confined or restricted only to the developing countries. Developed and the rich countries also stand to gain,” he said. The global nature of the negotiations meant they could only succeed in a multilateral format but that did not rule out bilateral contracts between trading partners, something urged by the United States to find out exactly what is on offer.

Premature call
Sharma dismissed as premature US calls for India and other big emerging countries such as Brazil, China and South Africa to open up their markets more to foreign goods and services. “We say that countries have to sit together and find a way forward for the successful conclusion. Unilateral concessions before meaningful negotiations will not take us anywhere,” he added.

On the proposal to allow developing countries to raise agricultural tariffs temporarily to help their farmer cope with a sudden flood of imports, Sharma held out hope for a solution.

Sharma said he intended to invite a representative group of trade ministers to India in the first week of September to add further political impetus to the negotiations, which are expected to resume among ambassadors and official in Geneva before the European summer break.

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