Lamy still hopeful on Doha Round

Business Standard, August 13, 2008
The stalled Doha Round of world trade talks can be concluded by the end of 2008, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy said here today. The WTO chief is on his first visit to the country after the failure of talks at a crucial mini-ministerial meeting on the Doha Round in Geneva last month.

“There is still a possibility to move the talks forward and conclude the negotiations within the end-2008 time frame which all WTO members have agreed since last year,” Lamy said at an interaction with members of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The meet was also attended by Commerce Minister Kamal Nath.

Lamy said that WTO member nations have urged him to build on whatever progress was made at the recent Geneva ministerial.

The WTO chief also held bilateral meetings with Nath and government officials on issues related to the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM), which is a norm that allows poor nations to increase duties in order to protect their economies from surging farm imports. Disagreements between India and the United States on this issue led to the failure of the Geneva mini-ministerial.

Nath reiterated India’s stand on SSM, saying the country’s position on WTO issues has not changed. “One of our prime concerns is livelihood security and there has to be a solution to address that. Moreover, interests of infant industry cannot be compromised,” he told reporters.

Earlier, speaking at the CUTS-Ficci conference on global development goals, Nath said: “If the basis of the Doha Round has to see a change in its very objectives, it would be a tough going for global trade integration.

Revival of the weakest and not survival of the fittest should form the core of the negotiations”.

Sources said that Lamy met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to assess the political will in the Indian government towards concluding the Doha Round. He is also scheduled to hold talks with BJP leaders, including former commerce minister Arun Jaitley, as well as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).

Lamy’s India visit is being seen as an attempt to push for a fresh ministerial by the end of this year. He will also visit the United States to hold discussions on WTO-related issues. “My simple message here in Delhi and next week in Washington is that WTO members should look carefully at what is on the table and not on the results,” he said.

Lamy said that while technically, the Doha Round negotiations are ready to be finalised, political concerns have gained an upper hand. “Of the 20 to-do lists in the mini-ministerial, 17 have been sorted out. On the issue related to SSMs, India and the US had major differences,” he added

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