India to support revival of WTO talks

By siliconindia   |   Monday, 19 January 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI : Brushing aside the usual election fever that turns any dealing with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) into a hot potato, the government has decided to support the recent efforts by the US and the European Union (EU) to revive crucial talks on agriculture and Singapore issues, which hit a deadlock at Cancun .

India will actively participate in the efforts to relaunch negotiations and commerce & industry minister Arun Jaitley will discuss the issue with EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy tomorrow, according to sources.

A positive response to USTR Robert B Zoellick’s recent letter, seeking efforts to put WTO talks back on track, is also on the cards. A senior representative from the USTR is also expected to visit Delhi , the sources said.

Rather than worrying about the efforts of the US and the EU, which come just a couple of months before the Lok Sabha elections, India looks at the development as a boon. Ever since the Cancun ministerial ended in a stalemate, the US and EU were indicating reluctance to return to the negotiating table.

They were blaming the developing nations for the failure of the ministerial, letting steam over the coalitions on agriculture and Singapore issues that successfully resisted pressure from the big guns.

Therefore, senior officials feel that the return of the US and the EU to the negotiating table is a vindication of the stand adopted by India along with its key allies like Brazil , China , South Africa and Argentina . They are not only willing to negotiate but also urging others to come back, they pointed out.

The US decision to recognise the critical role of agriculture in the pending WTO negotiations also points out that India was on track at Cancun . “Recognising the critical role of agriculture in these negotiations, the United States proposed sharp cuts in subsidies, tariffs, and other barriers. Later, the United States tried to work with the European Commission to capitalise on changes in the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to offer a framework for negotiating significant openings for global agricultural trade. Some Members of the WTO found that framework, including subsequent variations, to be insufficient or too uncertain; others believed it demanded too much,” says the letter from Mr Zoellick, which has been sent to trade ministers of all WTO member-nations, including Mr Jaitley.

India will continue to focus on reduction in farm subsidises by the EU and the US and this stand cannot be exploited by the Opposition in the general elections campaign.

(Courtesy: Economic Times)

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