India, Brazil to take on rich nations in WTO talks

Geneva: Backed by over 100 developing countries, India, Brazil and South Africa will take on the rich nations to get a fair trade deal at the WTO meeting of key trade ministers’ beginning here on Monday. Against a backdrop of high crude oil prices and global food crisis, the World Trade Organisation has convened a five-day mini Ministerial Meeting with a hope that closing the Doha Round can reinvigorate the world economy which is in the grip of a slowdown.

“The positions are pretty hard on all sides,” Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath gave a sense of the mood in the run-up to the ‘greenroom’ negotiations.

The WTO had launched negotiations among its members, for new agreements to open the world trade which should be fair and without distortions.

The negotiations, launched at the Qatari capital in 2001 and known as the Doha Round were to complete by the end of 2004 for a new trade regime.

However, wide differences over the extent to opening the markets blocked several rounds of talks, including the Ministerial Meetings in Cancun and Hong Kong.

For a collective bargain, the developing countries which dominate the 152 WTO membership have aligned themselves into different groupings like G-20, G-33 and NAMA (Non-Agriculture Market Access)-11.

But, thanks to “never-say-die” WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy and U.S. President George Bush’s desire to give an opportunity to American business before his term expires, pressure was built to achieve an agreement.

Farm markets

While the number of differences has come down, the countries have stuck to their positions when it comes to the crunch of seeking new markets for themselves but protecting their own turf.

Developing countries and food exporters from rich and poor nations called on Sunday for the U.S. and European Union to open up their farm markets and eliminate trade-distorting subsidies.

Global trade in farm products was at the centre of discussions as Ministers from three dozen trading powers met in negotiating alliances to prepare for a new world trade pact. Mr. Lamy has called the Ministers to Geneva to seek a breakthrough in the WTO’s 7-year-old Doha round to free up world trade.

The various alliances among the WTO’s 152 members, from the Cairns group of food exporters to the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries met on Sunday to plot their strategy.

“Those members responsible for the most significant distortions in global agricultural trade — the E.U., U.S. and Japan — bear a heavy responsibility,” said the Cairns Group of agricultural exporters. “We can and must now seize this opportunity to secure the main parameters of the Doha round. The costs of failure are too high,” said the group, whose members include Canada, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa and Thailand, in a statement.

Australia said the prospects of a Doha deal were better than ever. “This in our judgment is the best opportunity ever, in the whole seven years of this round, to conclude the deal,” Trade Minister Simon Crean told a news conference. — Agencies.

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