New Delhi: With the next six weeks likely to prove crucial for the Doha round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization, New Delhi is keen to ensure that the developing countries stick together during talks on both agriculture and industrial goods.
It is in this backdrop that commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath plans to travel to China on 16 April to meet his Chinese counterpart Bo Xilai. Ministry officials said the main purpose of his visit was to update China on the developments at the G-4 and G-6 meetings in the Capital. The G-4 meeting being attended by the US, EU, Brazil and India is slated to be held on 12 April along with a separate meeting of the G-6, which includes Japan and Australia also.
“China has been supportive of India’s stance in agriculture. With the chair of agriculture, Crawford Falconer, of New Zealand, and the chair for industrial goods, Don Stephenson, of Canada likely to submit new negotiating texts by the end of the month, there are fears that the developed countries would try to break ranks among the developing countries,” a ministry official, who did not wish to be named, said.
According to WTO expert Biswajit Dhar, “The India-China angle is significant not just in the narrow context of the WTO, but in a larger context of international trade and relations. As far as the WTO is concerned, China has a very narrow interest as a newly-acceded member. Since the terms of membership have already required it to make several reduction commitments, it does not want to agree for fresh round of commitments in the ongoing negotiations.”
Dhar was of the view that India should try to build issue-based support with China. “China is very clear about its bottom line. New Delhi should not seek a blanket support, but an issue-based support with Beijing,” he said.
Another trade expert, who did not wish to be identified, said, “There is now hardly any likelihood that the Doha round will go through. Even though the chairs of agriculture and NAMA (industrial goods) are likely to submit fresh texts, there are no new offers on the table. Also several countries look upon the meetings being convened by the G-4 or G-6 with suspicion. Even if they were to reach a solution amongst themselves, they may lack credibility among other members.”
The G-4 and G-6 meetings, being held in the Capital, are being considered important since it is the first time since July 2006 that the trade ministers representing the member countries of these groups would be sitting across the same table. Countries have been focusing on bilateral meetings since the trade talks were revived earlier this year.