By Jacob Cherian
After the Doha rounds were stalled last July, negotiations have shifted from Geneva to New Delhi over the course of the next two days, with six members of WTO meeting in the Indian capital to revive trade talks.
India, Brazil, the European Union – referred to as the G3 – have combined in their efforts to offer smaller tariff cuts, whereas, the U.S., Australia, and Japan have restricted themselves to bilateral meetings.
The U.S. is seen as a big player in the negotiations since it has taken a tough stand against pruning its farm subsidies.
Although services are a key area for nations such as India, it will take a back seat in the discussions, where agriculture and industrial tariffs will play out a major role.
“It will not be easy since everyone is playing the waiting game,” an Indian negotiator told the Times of India daily.
“We will use our persuasive powers on our home ground. We do not intend to agree to anything unless our concerns are met,” added the Indian official in Delhi.
Its vital that negotiators speed up negotiations so that there’s some kind of framework to work with by June before President Bush’s so-called fast track trade negotiating powers run out. If that’s the case, an agreement can be set in place by March.
EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said before the meeting, “If we are to use the remaining window of opportunity open to us, we need to intensify and accelerate the process of negotiation. If we fail, Doha’s prospects for this year will be lost.”
However, the Indian side is seem to be in a rush to get things done. The Times of India cited sources saying that it will put more pressure on the developing nations to conform to what the “Big Daddies of international trade” – namely, the U.S. and the EU – would like to achieve.
Another complicating factor is the U.S. presidential polls next year. Analysts say that will leave U.S. trade representative Susan Schwab more adamant against cutting farm support.
Commerce minister of India, though not highly popular with some developed nations for his uncompromising stand, has said that he prefers a no deal to a bad deal.
Most trade analyst say that it is unlikely that anything significant will come out of the talks in New Delhi.
“The scene is quite dismal. There seems to be very little meeting ground on some of the major issues,” said Pradeep Mehta, head of CUTS International, an Indian trade research group, reports AP.
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