Delhi raises concerns over unresolved issues at WTO

The two-day informal mini-ministerial meet hosted by India begins

setting the trend: WTO Director General Pascal Lamy (2nd right) shakes hands with the Ficci President Harsh Pati Singhania (left) as Bharti Emterprises (Telecommunication) MD & Ficci Senior Vice-President Rajan Bharti Mittal (2nd left) & Ficci WTO Task Force & FTA Issues Chairman R V Kanoria (right) look on in New Delhi on Thursday. AFP

Though India is host of the mini Ministerial meet, it said in no uncertain terms, that the negotiating process was yet to reach the point of ‘end game’. This meet is primarily aimed at re-energising the multilateral process at the WTO to conclude Doha Round of negotiations by 2010. It is also to remove impediments coming in the way of multilateral discussions and to provide clear directions to negotiators. 

“In some quarters, it has been suggested that most issues have been settled and we are almost in ‘end game’. However, if we look at the texts of modalities on Non Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) and agriculture alone, there are still a few gaps and large number of unresolved issues,” Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said in his inaugural address.

The Doha negotiations had collapsed in Geneva in July last year mainly on the issues of farm subsidies and level of protection being given to farmers by different member countries.
WTO Director General Pascal Lamy, however, was optimistic. At a Ficci meet he said, “I hope Delhi (informal meeting) can be the beginning of the end game of the Doha Round.”

Time-consuming
Sharma also told the Trade Ministers of the key member countries of the global trade body that all “contentious” issues need to be extensively discussed at the technical level by senior officials.
 “This will take time and needs to be factored in when we decide on a schedule for the ensuing months to determine when agriculture and NAMA modalities can be meaningfully concluded,” he said. 

He impressed upon his counterparts on the importance of “inclusiveness and transparency” of the WTO negotiation process. While Trade Ministers discussed about modalities to resume talks for the early conclusion of the Doha round, hundreds of protesters staged demonstrations protesting against the holding of the informal mini Ministerial meeting.

During the day long closed-door meeting, statements were submitted by key groups having influence on the negotiating process of WTO. These include Group of 10 comprising rich and developed countries, Group of 20 comprising developing countries, Cairn Group, European Union Trade Commission and Least Developed Countries. ‘As the objective of the Delhi Ministerial meeting is to develop convergence among major groups and members on issues relating to resumption and intensification of the Doha round negotiations, the discussion was confined to process-related issues,” official sources having access to the meeting told Deccan Herald.

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