WTO chief Lamy visiting India to try to revive trade talks

Economic Times, August 11, 2008

Pascal Lamy, World Trade Organisation (WTO) director general, will visit India on Tuesday in an attempt to revive the mini-ministerial trade talks that collapsed last month in Geneva.

Lamy is expected to try and get India agree on a to open up markets in industrial and agricultural goods as well as services.

The WTO chief will be here Tuesday and Wednesday and is expected to meet Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, according to a schedule put out at the WTO website.

Lamy will also attend a conference on “Global Partnership for Development: Where do we stand and where to go”, a statement from industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) said here on Monday.

The two-day international conference is being jointly organised by Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) and Ficci.

After the India visit, Lamy is scheduled to visit the United States and the European Union (EU) to urge them to work towards closing a deal in agriculture and industrial goods as well as services.

The Geneva meeting failed as the US and India could not agree on some key details of the special safeguards mechanism (SSM) to protect poor farmers against a surge in imports.

Kamal Nath later told the media that more than 100 other developing countries had supported India’s stand on the SSM at the Geneva talks.

At the talks, the US maintained that imports needed to increase by at least 40 percent over the average imports in the previous three years before developing countries could be allowed to increase duties over the levels committed in the previous Round.

India and the developing countries including China said this trigger was too high to be acceptable. They wanted the trigger to be fixed at 10 percent.

“We were willing to accept even a 15 per cent trigger,” Kamal Nath had told reporters after the failure of the talks adding “by the time imports surged by 40 per cent, small farmers would begin to commit suicide. This was unacceptable to us.”

Kamal Nath had, however, indicated that India was keen to go back to the table. Lamy’s visit is part of an attempt to bring both sides back to the negotiating table.

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