WTO and India call for resumption of stalled global trade talks

Canadian Business, August 12, 2008

The head of the World Trade Organization and India’s commerce minister called Tuesday for the resumption of global trade talks that stalled last month in Geneva.

“India is committed to the multilateral system but when we resume, I urge you to come to the table looking not for what you can get, but what you can give,” said Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, singling out foreign diplomats who had gathered to hear him speak at a trade conference in New Delhi.

Representatives from the United States, Britain, Canada, Brazil, Belgium, Japan, and Uruguay, among other countries, were on hand.

WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said that after trade talks stalled July 29, WTO member states had urged him to push ahead. “Don’t throw in the towel. Please reserve what’s on the table. We have never been so close,” they said, he recalled.

“Two days after a failure such unanimous view was and remains surprising,” he added.

Lamy and Nath were speaking at a trade conference organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or FICCI, a business group, and the Consumer Unity & Trust Society International, or CUTS, a non-governmental consumer advocacy group.

They did not lay out any time frame for kick-starting the so-called Doha round, which began in 2001 with the goal of helping emerging economies benefit from freer trade.

Talks foundered last month because India, China and the U.S. failed to reach an accord on emergency agricultural tariffs, which would protect developing markets from sudden surges of imported farm products.

Lamy said that if the talks had been successful, the sum of global import tariffs would have been slashed by half, a savings of $150 billion a year. Developing countries would have contributed one-third of that savings and reaped two-thirds of the rewards, he said.

Washington would have been required to cap trade-distorting subsidies, which could surge to $48 billion a year, at $14.5 billion a year, he said.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab will also meet with Lamy, her spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel said by e-mail from Washington.

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