Dharam Shourie / PTI
New York: India and the US are increasing their level of convergence on the contentious issues of farm subsidies and market access under the much-delayed Doha Round of negotiations for a global trade deal, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said on Friday, 9 May.
Nath said they discussed both “our divergences and convergences,” including issues of agricultural subsidies by the US and other developed countries after meeting with US Trade Representative Susan C Schwab here on Thursday, 8 May
Without reporting any progress on subsidies, he said both countries want to move forward on the issue. Schwab, who was by his side when Nath briefed the press, said that they also want the European Union to move on subsidies.
“There is recognition of India’s sensitivities in agriculture and we have to discuss how these sensitivities are to be addressed,” Nath added.
When Nath stressed on the market access, Schwab said the Doha Round is primarily, but not exclusively, for market access. Subsidies are also an area where the two countries differ but “we both agree it has to be part of the negotiations,” she added.
“The key is... to act in a way that would generate growth and be respectful of each other’s ambitions and sensitivities and try to nudge each other and our trading partners to go far as we possible... to get maximum possible benefits for each other and for the world,” Schwab said.
Both of them are expected to hold next meeting on 11 June in Washington during Nath’s visit to the US to attend the Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG).
They said India and US would work jointly to iron out differences with other countries so that the negotiations could be concluded. One area, he emphasized, was non-tariff barriers. “It is not specific to India or US, it is to all of us. So we looked at way how we can address non tariff barriers,” he added.
Nath said they had “useful and extensive” discussions which covered all aspect of trade negotiations and they expressed their resolve to complete the trade negotiations as fast as possible.
“At this point of time compared to the last year there is much convergence... that really demonstrates the progress in the negotiations, he said, adding that as India engages with the global economy global economy, it is essential that it has a rule based multilateral system.
Schwab said she agreed with the “objectives” and sense of urgency about achieving conclusion of trade negotiations earliest as this is a development round that would generate economic growth, economic development and alleviate poverty. “We feel sense of urgency and the need to move ahead as expeditiously as possible,” she added.
Asked whether there was any progress during the talks, Nath said every meeting is a move forward. They are trying to achieve progress milestone by milestone.
“It helps to get together periodically to help crystallize those areas in which we are closer together, we have mutual interest in working together... and those areas in which we still have differences and we know we have to figure out how to bridge them.”
Agricultural subsidies are a major issue with the developing countries as farmers in 30 developed nations get support in various ways equivalent to 1.1% of their GDP. It totals around $280 billion a year.
Due of subsidies, farmers from rich nations are able sell their produce much cheaper compared to agriculturists of developing world.