New Delhi: Union commerce minister Kamal Nath has said the Doha Round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) was closer than ever to resolution. “We are at the last mile of this,” the minister said at the Fortune Global Forum organized by Fortune magazine on Tuesday.
India still has concerns over agriculture, Nath said. The country “has 650 million people engaged in agriculture and unless these sensitivities are taken on board, India won’t be able to exercise flexibilities in other areas,” he said.
Six years of talks at the World Trade Organization in the Doha Round have failed to produce an accord because of disagreement over US and European Union (EU) aid to farmers and the reluctance of developing countries such as India and Brazil to cut duties on industrial goods.
The commerce minister said he had discussed trade negotiations with visiting US treasury secretary Henry Paulson. The US has taken on board Indian concerns on agriculture, Nath said.
The country, which is seeking to “correct structural flaws in global trade”, expects convergence on trade issues in the next two months, Nath said.
India’s growth story is led by its domestic market, he said. He said that the country’s stock market fundamentals are strong. The reason for increased investment in India was not solely because of cheaper labour costs, he said.
“India and the EU have almost total convergence,” Nath said at a meeting later in the day with visiting German chancellor Angela Merkel. “If the EU is willing to set a timeframe, India will follow suit.”
“India will have a constructive role to play,” Merkel said. “An open multilateral trading system is better than a host of bilateral agreements,” she added.