Delhi not bound by any deadline on WTO talks: Nath

Original Publication Date: 
14 March, 2007

NEW DELHI, Mar 14 (Agencies): India's prime minister called on developed countries yesterday to make bigger farm subsidy cuts to ensure the success of the Doha round of world trade talks.

New Delhi was committed to an "early positive conclusion" of the deadlocked talks and believed a multilateral trading system was in the nation's "strategic interests," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in the Indian capital.

But "to break the impasse, developed countries must make meaningful offers to reduce the huge trade-distorting subsidies provided to their agriculture," Singh told a conference organised by the Economist magazine.

The Doha round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks, launched in 2001 in the Qatari capital, ground to a halt last July, but trade ministers at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos earlier this year agreed negotiations should resume.

The European Union and US have been unable to agree on the size of cuts in agriculture subsidies and tariffs protecting their farm sectors and are pushing developing states to open their markets to industrial goods and services.

India, along with Brazil, have emerged as leaders in the developing world's challenge to the wealthy nations to curtail generous farm subsidies as they seeks to keep their own agriculture supports.

A breakthrough in the talks must come before the expiration of US President George W Bush's Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) on July 1, WTO officials say.

If the breakthrough can be achieved, a conclusion to the Doha talks-which have been called a once-in-a-generation chance to help bring millions out of poverty-could be reached in about eight months, they say.

Singh said it "must be recognised that for us (India), agriculture is not just a business but a way of life and a major source of livelihood."

"Markets are good for those who are part of a market system, but have no meaning for those who do not have the skills or resources to participate in it," he said.

India says it needs to protect the livelihoods of its 650 million farmers, many of whom are desperately poor.

All countries should work towards an outcome of the WTO talks that "does not destabilise or cause distress to this large section of people," Singh said.

Meanwhile, another report says: India is not bound by any deadline for completing the Doha round of WTO talks and no breakthrough is possible unless rich nations address the livelihood concerns of developing countries, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said yesterday.

"There is no commitment by India on the deadline," Nath said, adding factors like expiry of the Trade Promotion Authority of US President George Bush and German Presidency of the EU should not dictate multilateral trade negotiations.

Agreeing with Carnegie Endowment's trade expert Sandra Poleski, Nath said extension of TPA and French elections were internal matters of these countries and 150 WTO members cannot be held hostages to these issues.

Earlier, Poleski said WTO members should not restrict their talks to deadlines like June 30, when the special powers of US Administration to enter into trade treaties expire.

India would prefer "no deal than a bad deal", he said. Nath said India would not accept a deal which would push back its economic growth rate from nine per cent to five per cent. "I do not want our manufacturing growth of 12 per cent to be pushed back," the minister added.