Doha trade talks “at last mile”, says Kamal Nath

Doha trade talks “at last mile”, says Kamal Nath

New Delhi: Leading negotiating nations are closer than ever before to concluding successfully the arduous Doha round of world trade talks, commerce minister Kamal Nath said on 30 October 2007.

The United States and the European Union are calling on developing countries to open up their markets for manufacturers by cutting import tariffs in return for cuts by rich countries to trade-distorting subsidies and tariffs on farm goods.

“We are closer than ever before in closing the Doha round. We are at the last mile. If this is won, we are almost there," Kamal Nath said at a global business conference organised by Fortune magazine in New Delhi.

The Doha round was launched six years ago to boost the global economy and help poor countries export more.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said recently the talks could result in a deal by the end of the year despite remaining obstacles.

World Trade Organization director-general Pascal Lamy has said a deal is within reach if countries could grab it because negotiators have made significant progress on technical issues since September.

Lamy added that world leaders, from US President George W. Bush and the European Commission to Lula and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seemed sincerely interested in reaching a deal.

Developing countries say proposals currently on the table are not in the spirit of the Doha round’s development mandate because they require poor countries to cut their industrial tariffs by more than rich countries would do.

Some are also concerned that opening up food markets could hurt the livelihoods of millions of subsistence farmers.

Nath warned that India would not be able to exercise flexibility in other areas if the concerns of its 650 million farmers were not taken on board.

“I hope in the next two months, there will be some convergence," he said.

Finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said earlier at the conference that a rise in protectionist sentiment in some advanced countries was a matter of concern.

“We have gained immensely through the globalization of trade. In recent years, our exports have grown an average 20% a year. Yet there are some aspects that worry us," Chidambaram said.

“Firstly, the rise of protectionist tendencies in some advanced economies and secondly, even as we find tariff barriers being reduced, we also find new non-tariff barriers are erected," he said.