Yoshita Singh / PTI
Geneva: Backed by over 100 developing countries, India, Brazil and South Africa will take on the rich nations to get a fair trade deal at the WTO meeting of key trade ministers’ beginning here tomorrow.
Against a backdrop of high crude prices and global food crisis, the World Trade Organisation has convened a five-day mini-ministerial meeting with a hope that closing the Doha Round can reinvigorate the world economy which is in the grip of a slowdown.
“The positions are pretty hard on all sides,” commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath gave a sense of the mood in the run-up to the ‘greenroom’ negotiations.
The WTO had launched negotiations among its members, for new agreements to open the world trade which should be fair and without distortions. The negotiations, launched at the Qatari capital in 2001 and known as the Doha Round were to complete by the end of 2004 for a new trade regime.
However, wide differences over the extent to opening the markets blocked several rounds of talks, including the Ministerial Meetings in Cancun and Hong Kong.
For a collective bargain, the developing countries which dominate the 152 WTO membership have aligned themselves into different groupings such as G-20, G-33 and NAMA (Non-Agriculture Market Access)-11.
But, thanks to ‘never-say-die’ WTO Director General Pascal Lamy and US President George Bush’s desire to give a new opportunity to American business before his term expires, pressure was built to achieve an agreement.
While the number of differences has come down, the countries have stuck to their positions when it comes to the crunch of seeking new markets for themselves but protecting their own turf.
“There is no hope or scope of any concessions which will compromise India’s industries such as engineering, chemicals, textiles, automobiles. Provisions for their protection cannot be diluted. If this means a breakdown (of talks), so be it,“ Nath said.
However, Doha holds a promise for reviving the global economy.
WTO Director General Pascal Lamy had said, “A deal to open trade in agriculture and goods means more growth, better prospects for development and a more stable and predictable trading system. We must not let this opportunity slip through our fingers.”
In a recent update on the World Economic Outlook by multilateral funding agency, International Monetary Fund (IMF) said,” The slowdown in global growth is expected to continue to the second half of 2008 with only a gradual recovery during 2009.“
It had projected global growth rate would moderate to 4.1% in 2008 from 5% in 2007.