Australia ready to work with India at WTO talks

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Warren Truss
Warren Truss

N. Ravi Kumar

`India has vital role in encouraging opening up of markets in developing countries'

  • Europeans should remove their tariffs and Americans subsidies on agricultural products
  • Successful outcome of the Doha round was Australia's priority

    CHENNAI: Australia is keen on a good outcome to the Doha round negotiations of the World Trade Organisation and willing to work with India to try and broker solutions that might be acceptable to other trading countries, says the Australian Trade Minister Warren Truss.

    He intends making this offer to Commerce Minister Kamal Nath during the joint ministerial commission meeting later this week.

    "India has a particularly important role as a leader of the developing world in encouraging the opening up of the markets so that there can be a comprehensive, all-inclusive, and high quality outcome to the Doha round," Mr. Truss said in an interview to The Hindu group of publications here on Monday.

    Highlighting the need for all countries to make a contribution, he said Europeans should remove their tariffs and Americans subsidies on agricultural products. "It will also be important for the developing world, particularly major economies like India, Brazil, China and Korea, to take steps to open up their markets for both agricultural and non-agricultural goods."

    While Australia was in discussion with many countries, including India, on Free Trade Agreements, the successful outcome of the Doha round was its priority. "That is what we want to achieve ... because that will deliver a freer and fair trade ... all the countries will benefit." The FTAs need to be on top of the achievements at the WTO and deliver greater concessions, more market access than that would come through the WTO.

    Apart from discussing the Doha round, a range of business and trade issues and any barriers that each country would like to be removed would be discussed at the ministerial commission meeting, he said.

    On the prospects of the Doha round negotiations concluding this year, Mr. Truss said: "This year is the window of opportunity and if it's lost it will take some time to resurrect the talks."

    Pointing out that there had not been sufficient movement from any of the parties to secure high quality agreement, he said the aspiration of the developing countries to have access to markets in the developed world was reasonable. But the developing world should also be prepared to open up their markets from other parts. There was also a need to restrict the number of special and sensitive products to just handful and not hundreds.

    Mr. Truss, who opened the Australian Consulate General in Chennai, said its establishment was an expression of the importance attached to south Indian market. On the bilateral trade balance weighing heavily in Australia's favour, he said the imports from Australia, especially commodities such as gold and coal, were absolutely critical to creating jobs and building the growth industries in India. The imports provided India an opportunity to develop trade surpluses with other parts of the world.

    Welcoming the renewal of air services by Qantas between Australia and Mumbai and the announcement that Air India would fly to Melbourne, he said the direct air services would help substantially open up the tourism and the business market. He said there was also a possibility of Jet Star, the low-cost subsidiary of Qantas, launching services to India.

    About the issues in the Indo-Australia trade ties, he said the tariff barriers and other behind-the border barriers prevented the import of a wide range of agricultural products into India. They disadvantaged Indian consumers and prevented Indian agriculture from achieving its true potential.

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