India will protect its farmers but wants Doha Round revived

India will protect its farmers but wants Doha Round revived

New Delhi: Ahead of the informal mini-ministerial meet of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Delhi, India on Tuesday said it will continue to protect its farmers but still try and revive the Doha Development Round (or Doha Round) of trade talks.

Last year, trade ministers came close to a deal, but the talks collapsed over a dispute between the US and developing economies spearheaded by India over proposals to help farmers in poor nations.

India maintained that it would stick to this position during the 3-4 September meeting that will be attended by trade ministers and officials from major economies and countries representing groups with common interests.

“While we go to the negotiating table, we remain conscious of the interests of millions of our farmers, the interests of our small and medium enterprises and we remain committed to the aspirations of our booming services industry to get greater market access...," commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said on Tuesday while addressing the heads of missions meeting at a session on “India and Doha Round".

The Doha Round was launched in 2001 to boost global trade and help developing countries increase exports by lowering trade barriers.

Commerce secretary Rahul Khullar said the Delhi meeting is intended to “resume and intensify" the Doha Round of negotiations and should be distinguished from the ministerial meetings convened by WTO. “We do not want to talk about substantive issues in the meeting because neither this is the right forum, nor do we have the authority for this," Khullar added.

In an interview with Mint published on 24 August, Harsha Vardhana Singh, deputy director general, WTO, had said that he expects a clear road map to emerge from the Delhi talks for the proposed WTO ministerial meeting later in the year in Geneva.

Khullar said that the intention is to build a broad-based consensus on how ministers would like to see the process of negotiation fast-tracked. “The objective is to draw up a clear plan for re-engagement at the WTO in the near future so as to take the (Doha) Round forward." Khullar further added that the discussions in Delhi will focus on “process rather than content".

In his speech, Sharma criticized the “disturbing trend of the growing tendency of protectionism" among Western countries. “It is my firm belief that such measures are delaying economic recovery and prolonging recession. It is a time in which leadership will be tested to break down barriers, and not to erect new ones," he said.

Providing specific example of the “Buy American" law, Sharma urged the heads of Indian missions to remain vigilant against such trends.

“We have seen the imposition of non-tariff barriers to free trade. Our consignments of pharmaceuticals bound for Africa are repeatedly held up in European Union. I will urge our missions to remain vigilant to such trends," Sharma said.