Ed Davies, Reuters
Jakarta: Rich nations must give ground to help global free trade talks make progress, Indian trade minister Kamal Nath said on 21 March, at a meeting of developing nations in Indonesia, which sent a united message on cutting farm subsidies.
Indonesia is hosting a meeting of developing nations in the G33 group aimed at discussing positions for the World Trade Organization’s long-troubled Doha round of negotiations.
The five-year-old Doha round was relaunched in January after a six-month suspension triggered by differences among major trading partners, especially US and EU, over agricultural subsidies.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the meeting, Kamal Nath expressed his concern by saying, “the question is whether developed countries are willing to make things move forward or move towards an artificial deadline, arising out of their own political and domestic situation.”
There is concern global trade talks will fail if they are not wrapped up by June, when the US administration’s fast-track negotiating authority, which allows it to negotiate trade deals which Congress must approve or reject without making changes, expires.
European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, warned that time was running out. He said, “I will be reviewing with G33 the progress made by G4 since early 2007 and share my concern over the clock ticking to the expiry of US negotiators’ Trade Promotion Authority by June end”.
Echoing Nath’s views was the Brazilian foreign minister who too placed responsibility on rich nations, especially vis-a-vis eliminating or diminishing subsidies.”
G4: EU, United States, Brazil and India, have intensified their efforts in recent weeks to strike a deal on agriculture, the main sticking point so far in negotiations and on industrial goods and services. General consensus was that rich nations should give ground on agriculture and that developing countries should stand firm.
WTO launched its Doha round of negotiations in 2001 to cut barriers to trade around the world as a way to lift millions out of poverty and boost global economy. But if an agreement is not reached soon, it could run into delays and on a pessimistic note even collapse.