India wary of Lamy draft to save Doha talks

Financial Express, India, December 07, 2006

By Arun S

World Trade Organisation director general Pascal Lamy is said to be keen on producing a draft with clear directions to all members on what needs to be done to salvage the Doha round of talks. India is, however, totally against any such text and is of the opinion that only political will can save the Doha development agenda.

“Lamy would be well advised not to come out with a text since we think it will not include the developing world’s concerns. Several nations have already told him not to do so. Unlike predecessor Arthur Dunkel, who produced a draft to save the talks in the Uruguay round, Lamy does not have a mandate from all countries. Only political will can save the Doha trade talks,” a commerce ministry official told FE reflecting commerce minister Kamal Nath’s views.

Lamy had recently warned that the Doha round was on the verge of collapse. The talks were suspended last July because developed countries were dragging their feet on cutting farm subsidies. The Doha round commenced in 2001 with an agenda aimed at countering the disadvantages faced by poor countries.

Officials said the broad contours of the Lamy draft would push the US to reduce domestic subsidies, estimated to be over $20 billion, the European Union to eliminate barriers on agricultural imports, and advanced countries to open their markets for industrial goods from the developing world.

Trade experts in India, however, said the present condition was still “not ripe” for a text like the Dunkel draft. Nagesh Kumar, director general, Research & Information Systems for Developing Countries, said, “Not enough chances have so far been given to all the countries for a revival of the talks. The US has to show leadership and come out with a good offer by reducing their trade distorting subsidies. There is no need for developing countries to rush at the moment. What is on the table is not in their favour.”

Biswajit Dhar, head of the WTO studies centre at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade said, “Any draft produced from outside the negotiating process has to be considered as a threat by India and all developing countries. A draft has to emanate only from the WTO committees.”

Pradeep S Mehta, secretary general of CUTS International, an NGO, however, said, “Such a draft from Lamy may be necessary to break the impasse. But it has to extract a commitment from the EU and the US to reduce farm subsidies.”

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