Washington: The US on Monday accused India of trying to wreck world trade liberalization talks, saying the Asian power was looking at the Doha Round negotiations as a “donor’s conference.”
“It is disappointing that India has been a roadblock to success in the Doha negotiations,” said US under secretary of commerce for international trade Christopher Padilla at a forum on “Responsibility and partnership in the 21st century”, organized by the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington.
He said India continued to be protected from any real market opening in industrial goods, agriculture or services while asking developed countries to do ever more.
“The Doha Round negotiations are not a donor’s conference. They require major economic powers like India to step up and take responsible leadership, rather than working behind the scenes for Doha’s demise,” the US under secretary said.
“We are not asking that India and others open their markets to the same extent as developed countries — far from it. Yet, so far India has resisted virtually all liberalizing proposals in Doha, even those proffered by other developing countries,” Padilla charged.
These strong words come two days ahead of the arrival of Indian commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath in Washington for talks, including with US trade representative Susan Schwab and treasury secretary Henry Paulson.
Nath has continually insisted that New Delhi will not sacrifice the interests of its millions of subsistence farmers to clinch a deal in the global trade talks.
Padilla, who has a penchant for not mincing words on issues with allies, cited the latest Indian proposal on tariff reduction formula cuts under the WTO talks as “a complete non-starter. The time is fast approaching when India’s stance on Doha may result in the failure of the Doha Round,” he said.
WTO director general Pascal Lamyhad initially hoped to bring ministers to the global trade watchdog’s headquarters in Geneva over Easter to decide on “modalities” — the key numbers for tariff cuts that would form the basis for any comprehensive deal.
Unforgiving: US commerce under secretary Christopher Padilla (right) says India is impeding the success of the Doha Round.
But this timetable has repeatedly had to be put back as WTO’s 152 member states prove incapable of reaching consensus despite intensive technical discussions.
Padilla said the Doha talks were more than just about reducing tariff rates or lowering agricultural subsidies.
“Doha is about creating hope and opportunity for billions of the world’s poorest citizens. India is proof of the remarkable effects that opening up an economy can have on a country’s citizens,” he said.
Padilla also asked India to finalize a “high standard” bilateral investment treaty with the US, saying it would complement India’s economic reforms and create a “more welcoming climate” for foreign investment.
US President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had vowed in 2005 to take steps to beef up trade and investment as part of a strategic partnership anchored on a landmark nuclear deal.
Under the deal, the US is to provide India with nuclear fuel and technology even though the Asian nation has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But the agreement had failed to win the support of the Congress-led coalition’s Communist allies, which feared the sovereignty of the nation would be compromised.
“The benefits for India are clear, and we hope that India’s government will choose to move forward as quickly as possible to fully realize the potential of this historic agreement,” Padilla said.
“It would be a tragedy for India to forgo this opportunity for a strategic partnership with the United States of America,” he added.