India may return to WTO talks

Business Standard, August 13, 2008

India today said it is willing to get back to global trade talks if WTO chief Pascal Lamy gets a positive signal from US next week for resolving the Doha deadlock on issue of safeguards for farmers in developing countries.

“We have always said if the WTO Director General feels there is a chance for (another) opening, then we will be prepared to come again to Geneva,” Commerce Secretary G K Pillai told reporters on the sidelines of a FICCI-CUTS conference here.

Pillai said Lamy “would get back to us,” after he visit to the US and completes consultations with others.

A marathon meeting of 30 trade ministers failed to reach a common ground when they met in Geneva between July 21-29 on an issue of the level of protection for developing countries in case of import surge post a market-opening Doha deal.

In the core group of seven nations, India and China rejected the US proposals which would have meant little flexibility with the developing countries in case imports of agricultural commodities surge. “At 40 per cent (trigger for levying safeguard duty) my farmers would have committed suicides,” Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath had said.

While Lamy declined to comment on whether he was trying another meeting of ministers, reports suggest chances of another major attempt to reach a breakthrough on a deal which, many hope, could provide the much-needed stimulus to the world economy, marked by slowdown and food crisis.

Participating in a panel discussion, Lamy said there is a critical need for building consensus “as there is no other option available at this time”. He said world trade has dramatically changed in the last two decades. “We now have 15 trade unions (country and regional groupings) within the WTO, which as powerful coalitions negotiate on the nitty gritties of trade,” Lamy said.

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