Trade Ministers from 40 countries will “start informal discussions” here from Thursday to inject momentum into the talks meant to open $32 trillion global trade, amid hopes that New Delhi could possibly emerge as the focal point for breaking the prolonged deadlock in the Doha Round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations.

As a run up to the two-day meeting being hosted by India, officials of nearly 35 countries met on Wednesday to zero in on some concrete points that could provide direction for further progress of the talks and also end the logjam since November 2008. However, Commerce Ministry officials asserted that no formal declaration would be made at the end of the meeting. Trade Ministers from the U.S., the European Union, Australia, Brazil, China, South Africa and Canada, among others, arrived here for the conclave.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma held several bilateral meetings during the day. He met Australian Minister of Trade Simon Crean, New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser and U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander to discuss how the divide between the rich and developing countries be bridged.

The meeting could also face protests from Left parties, farmers’ bodies and non-government organisations (NGOs) who are likely to hold demonstration against the free trade conclave. The WTO has announced schedule for the ministerial meeting of 153 trade ministers in Geneva from November 30 to December 2. Interestingly, WTO chief Pascal Lamy is attending the informal meeting here.

The talks would centre around the contentious issues including farm subsidy in the developed countries, demand for market access in developing countries and level of farmer’s protection there. The meeting would also witness bilateral discussions on the sidelines. The visiting trade ministers are also likely to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday. After his meeting with Sharma, Mr. Groser expressed confidence that there would be some progress on the stalled Doha Round. The outcome of the meeting was also likely to provide key inputs for the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh later this month that is being hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama which will also be attended by Dr. Singh.


Break in WTO impasse; talks to resume on Sept 14September 4, 2009

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