Lamy seeks Doha discounts

Economic Times, August 13, 2008

It may not be curtains yet for the Doha round of multilateral talks at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Its director general Pascal Lamy said here on Tuesday that most members don’t want negotiations to be abandoned.

Mr Lamy urged India to make some concessions and help move the Doha round forward. The WTO DG met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to understand whether India wanted to continue working on the deal and what were its political compulsions. He will be visiting Washington next week on a similar mission.

The Geneva talks broke down over differences between India, backed by developing countries, and the US over special safeguard measures (SSM) to protect poor farmers against surge in imports. Stressing that India couldn’t change its position on the issue, commerce & industry minister Kamal Nath asked Mr Lamy to urge the US to understand India’s concerns. “Mr Lamy should lay down our concerns in agriculture and industry in his meetings in the US next week,” he said.

In interactions with the industry organised by Cuts, Ficci and CII, Mr Lamy said despite strong differences over how the issue of SSM should be tackled, members don’t want the talks to be abandoned at this point. “In the General Council meeting of the WTO, which followed the Geneva flop, most members said that too much has been achieved at the meet for the talks to be abandoned at this point,” he said.

Mr Lamy, who will retire in September 2009, is keen on ensuring a successful conclusion to the Doha round launched in November 2001. However, if the round is to be concluded some time soon, WTO members need to reach a conclusion on the formulae for cutting down tariffs in farm and industrial goods before the US presidential elections in October.

“My simple message here in Delhi and next week in Washington is that (members should) look carefully at what is on the table and not on results, listen to all WTO members and efforts should be to conclude the talks,” Mr Lamy said.

India, however, warned that for the talks to succeed, the focus has to be back on the concept of a development round. “If the basis of the round (Doha negotiations) has to see a change in its objectives, it would be a tough going for global trade integration,” Mr Nath said.

He added that revival of the weakest and not survival of the fittest should form the core of the negotiations for reaching an agreement.

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