New Delhi: India said on Thursday it was hopeful that talks to free up global trade would resume, but vowed not to compromise on its demands for protection of poor farmers. One official said it could be the middle of next year before the talks that collapsed this week restart.
“I am hopeful that the process will restart again,” commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath told a news conference after his return from the talks in Geneva. “India stands ready whenever the process resumes.”
The World Trade Organization (WTO) talks on a new global trade pact fell apart on Tuesday as the US and India refused to compromise over a proposal to help poor farmers in the developing world. Negotiations stumbled on a so-called special safeguard mechanism to protect poor farmers that would have imposed a special tariff on certain agricultural goods in the event of an import surge or a price fall.
No compromise: Commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath addresses a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday. (AP)
Asked when the talks could resume, Nath said: “In the next two-three months”, but did not elaborate. Commerce secretary Gopal Pillai later told a television channel he doubted much could be done before US presidential polls in November and it was more likely talks would restart around the middle of next year.
They might then take a year to conclude, he said. “So, one is really looking at the conclusion of the Doha Round around June 2010, and that is a pity because to an extent there was progress.”
The seven-year Doha Round negotiations have been dogged by differences, often over the degree to which big developing countries such as China, India, Brazil, or South Africa should open up their markets in farm products and industrial goods.
“India is ready to be at the table without compromising on issues which concern poor farmers of not only India, but 100 other developing countries,” Nath said.
“The US created the deadlock on an issue which was not trade, but related to livelihood of farmers,” he said. “I can negotiate commerce, but I cannot negotiate livelihood security.”
Susan C. Schwab, the top US official at the Geneva talks, had said that she wasn’t prepared to accept a deal that gave other nations an unfair advantage. “Any safeguard mechanism must distinguish between the legitimate need to address exceptional situations involving sudden and extreme import surges and a mechanism that can be abused,” she had said. “In the face of a global food price crisis, we simply could not agree to a result that would raise more barriers to world food trade.”
The US refused to agree to proposals by India and China that developing nations should be allowed to boost duties by an additional 25% on farm products if imports surged by 15%. Washington insisted extra duties should be imposed only if imports surged by 40%.
“By the time we have a 40% surge in imports, our farmers would have committed suicide,” Nath said, adding, “This trigger was not acceptable.”
AFP and Bloomberg contributed to this story.