New Delhi: Australian trade minister Simon Crean pressed India to soften its stand on cutting tariffs in industries such as chemicals, auto components and electronic items ahead of the informal mini-ministerial of the World Trade Organization (WTO) aimed at reviving the Doha Round of negotiations. India is unlikely to budge on the issue, trade experts said.
A successful conclusion of the Doha Round will require some give and take by all sides, Crean said at a conference of the the industry lobby group, the Confederation of Indian Industry.
“Negotiations on NAMA (non-agricultural market access) or industrial goods, cannot be concluded until we have some accommodation by India on sectorals,” he said.
Negotiations begin: Australian trade minister Simon Crean in New Delhi on Wednesday. Crean insisted that a successful conclusion of the Doha Round will require some give and take from all sides. B. Mathur / Reuters
The term sectorals refers to proposed initiatives under the Doha Round that would require deep tariff cuts by developing countries on entire industrial sectors. India has maintained that such cuts need to be voluntary.
Crean said several sectors have been identified in the negotiations and the NAMA framework requires commitment by members to participate in sectoral negotiations in good faith.
“Sectorals have been in the focus for almost a year. I don’t think India will agree to it unless there are some very significant offers by the developed countries,” said Abhijit Das, deputy project co-ordinator and officer in charge at the United Nations Conference on Trade Development India.
Indian industry has been demanding focus on reducing non-tariff barriers and getting greater market access in the services sector to be highlighted.
While the official-level talks of the informal WTO meeting started on Wednesday, and were chaired by commerce secretary Rahul Khullar, trade ministers of the 35 countries would start two days of discussions starting on Thursday.
Participants discussed “the sequence in which all areas being negotiated under the Doha Round are to be completed” and “the need to ensure commensurate progress in other areas”, the trade ministry said in a statement.
India has already made it clear that the focus of discussions in New Delhi will be to evolve a roadmap for formal WTO talks later this year at Geneva rather than on specific and contentious issues.
“It is very unlikely that any significant progress will be made on technical issues. However, a political commitment indicating a constructive engagement may emerge from the New Delhi meeting. The ministers also may come out with a milestone regarding how to progress with the Doha round talks,” Das said.
Crean also said that the talks would be crucial to report progress at the G-20 (Group of 20) meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors at Pittsburgh in the US later this month.
The conclusion of the Doha Round would be the “most effective insurance against protectionism”, Crean said. “Each time there has been a successful conclusion of a trade liberalization round, there has been a lift in world output. There is no point calling for coordination of domestic fiscal stimulus packages unless we are going to work on the multiplier.”
In July, India proposed the mini-ministerial meeting in New Delhi to remove impediments in the way of reviving the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations.
“A fair and satisfactory outcome to the Doha trade negotiations is important if we are to overcome the economic crisis,” European trade commissioner Catherine Ashton said ahead of her visit to India. “I welcome the Indian government’s initiative to host this meeting, which presents the first opportunity for a large group of ministers to meet since the summer of 2008.”
Ashton will meet commerce minister Anand Sharma on 5 September to discuss trade relations between the European Union and India including a comprehensive trade and investment agreement.