India rues tardy pace of Doha trade talks

Leaders of the world’s most influential countries, including the US and the European Union, Brazil and India had agreed for concluding WTO talks for a multi-lateral agreement in 2011.

“Earlier this year, there was a window of opportunity. Unfortunately the progress has been less than encouraging, disappointing,” Union Commerce & Industry Minister Anand Sharma told PTI here.

However, he said member nations would remain engaged and review the talks in the next Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva in December.

Trade ministers of all 153 member nations are expected to attend the ministerial meeting, the highest policy making organ of the multi-lateral trade body. The Doha Round of talks, launched in 2001, has already missed several deadline on account of differences between developing and advanced nations on issues like market access for agriculture and industrial goods. India and other developing nations have been defending their agricultural market to protect millions of subsistence farmers from easy imports following the multilateral agreement.

The US and the other developed countries are, however, seeking more market access in developing nations, including India. As per WTO estimate, successful conclusion of Doha talks could boost the global trade by up to US$200 billion in a year.

Meanwhile, Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar, has said the World Trade Organisation’s Doha round of talks that have been deadlocked for the last three years are unlikely to be completed before 2013.

“It is not possible to conclude the Doha round by the end of 2011. It is also crystal clear that it is not going to be possible to do it in 2012 because one country is going to go through a very long, drawn out election at that time,” Khullar said, adding domestic politics in the US would not allow any significant breakthrough in the talks for at least two years.

Blaming US for the deadlock, Khullar said, “for the last two years, the US has not allowed the talks to go on”.  Khullar also termed as “rude”, the remarks of US ambassador to WTO Michael Punke, who in Geneva recently said India’s restrictive trade policy was holding back progress on the talks. India would not change its stand at the WTO under any pressure, he added.

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