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Kamal Nath and Susan Schwab to discuss WTO concessions

Kamal Nath and Susan Schwab to discuss WTO concessions
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First Published: Wed, May 07 2008. 12 32 PM IST
Updated: Wed, May 07 2008. 12 32 PM IST
Washington: U.S. business groups said they hoped a meeting of top trade officials from the United States and India this week would help advance world trade talks but criticized India’s role in negotiations so far.
U.S. trade representative Susan Schwab and India’s commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath meet in New York on Thursday at a key point in the Doha round of world trade talks, which is now in its seventh year.
Many countries fear the round will slip into the deep freeze if a final agreement is not signed by the time the next U.S. president takes office in January 2009.
India criticised for not walking the walk
Speaking in advance of the India talks, Frank Vargo, vice president for international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers, criticized New Delhi, saying: “They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk.”
“In other words, they say good things, that they want this to work ... but when it comes to actually putting any positive proposals on the table, they don’t,” Vargo said.
U.S asked to slash farm subsidies
Meanwhile Kamal Nath has pressed the United States to slash its domestic farm subsidies but has also insisted on conditions that would let developing countries shield a large number of sensitive agricultural sectors from deep tariff cuts.
Vargo said India, as a leader of the so-called NAMA 11 negotiating bloc, was resisting demands for advanced developing countries to open their markets to more foreign manufactured goods.
Bob Vastine, president of the Coalition of Service Industries, which represents sectors ranging from banking to telecommunications to express delivery, said he was also frustrated with India’s position.
“India is one of the two key countries that haven’t really participated (in the services negotiations). China and India are perhaps the two most important countries from whom we need offers on services,” Vastine said.
Some U.S. business groups concede it is reasonable for developing countries to expect the United States to make deep cuts in farm subsidies and to reduce tariffs in politically sensitive areas like textiles and light trucks as part of a Doha deal.
U.S seeks export opportunities in developing nations, including India
But they say that unless the agreement also gives U.S. manufacturers, farm groups and service providers new export opportunities in major developing countries like India, it would be very hard to win approval in Congress.
One reason India often gives for not offering more in the services talks is political opposition in the U.S. Congress to one of New Delhi’s key demands -- more temporary entry visas for its information technology and other service providers to work in the United States.
Other WTO members such as the European Union, Australia and Canada have made good offers to India on that issue, while the United States is “stuck because of our Congress,” Vastine said.
Is time running out for Doha round?
He added that without a meaningful market opening offer from New Delhi, U.S. negotiators have no incentive to make a politically sensitive concession for India.
Earlier on Tuesday, European trade commissioner Peter Mandelson warned time could be running out for the Doha round, which aims to open markets around the world to more trade in agriculture, manufactured goods and services.
“There may not be a later for this deal. It’s got to be now,” Mandelson told reporters, stressing the need for negotiators in Geneva to produce new compromise texts in agricultural and manufacturing by the end of next week.
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First Published: Wed, May 07 2008. 12 32 PM IST