Stating that he did not see an end to the decade-old Doha Round of negotiations for a global trade deal, Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar on Tuesday said he did not see the deal materialising before 2014.
Blaming the developed nations for not doing enough for taking forward the concessions package for the least developed countries (LDCs), Mr. Khullar said that he envisaged a long drawn battle of disputes between various countries due to loopholes in WTO rules and warned that India should brace up for contesting these disputes.
Speaking at the function organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) on WTO issue, Mr. Khullar said it would take at least two more years for the negotiators to reach a settlement and cited various reasons for his view point.
“The U.S. goes into the election mode in 2012 and then we can look at 2013. By the time the US Administration comes into office and thereafter putting people in place and getting negotiations restarted. If by the end of 2013, we have a deal, you will be pretty damn lucky. My guess is you are looking closer to 2014,” he said.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) biennial Ministerial Conference ended last week without making any headway forward or direction for the Doha Round of talks.
The Commerce Secretary said until the developed countries got out of the global economic crisis, conclusion of the round was not possible. “It was pretty clear from mid-2009 that until the great recession played itself out, there was going to be no appetite in the developed world for taking on any trade agreement because they are completely overtaken by the domestic fallout of the disaster that are happening to their economics. Due to falling economic growth and rising unemployment in the developed countries, nobody cares what is happening in Geneva or Doha,” he said.
In fact, what has happened during the last few years is that due to the deadlock in the Doha Round, a large number of countries, including India, have preferred to take the free trade agreement (FTA) or bilateral trade agreement route for enhancing economic engagement. “Issues that would come to the forefront in the next 3-5 years include energy and food security as well as labour and environmental standards,” he added.
Referring to the issue of Doha Round having failed to finalise a package for LDCs, Mr. Khullar said the developed world had a lot to answer for that and not the developing nations.
“When in a community of 157 members, you cannot even agree to help those at the bottom, there is something really wrong. We did our bit. But ask yourself how many of you developed countries have done it transparently tariff line by tariff line, apart from empty words,” he said.