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talk 'impasse' lingers in WTO
Business Standard, December 19, 2011
over ministerial, courtesy US-China spar, conflict between
cotton-producing African nations.
round of global trade talks has once again ended in a complete
deadlock at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) headquarters in
Geneva, even as countries have agreed on continuing the round and
achieve progress in some areas.
mood this time was slightly sombre unlike the case with the previous
ministerial meetings, a major conflict of interest was seen between
the US and China, besides between cotton-producing African
highlighted the importance of keeping markets open and the need to
resist protectionism, particularly in today’s challenging global
economic environment. Many ministers sought a stronger message
against protectionism, stating that the prevailing economic climate
had made it all the more essential, according to a statement issued
by the WTO after closing the round that saw 153 member-countries
coming together to hammer out a deal.
of ministers expressed concern over the increase of protectionism in
agricultural trade in the form of trade-restrictive measures
—without scientific or technical justification. Some ministers also
aired worries about an increasing resort to private standards and
director-general Pascal Lamy, while closing the two-day event:
“Ministers deeply regret that, despite full engagement and
intensified efforts to conclude the Doha Development Agenda single
undertaking since the last Ministerial Conference, the negotiations
are at an impasse. Despite this situation, Ministers remain
committed to work actively, in a transparent and inclusive manner,
towards a successful multilateral conclusion of the Doha Development
Agenda in accordance with its mandate.”
work ahead, while a number of ministers emphasised their openness to
different negotiating approaches, some expressed strong reservations
about plurilateral approaches. Many members —according to Lamy —
stressed that any different approaches in the work ahead should
conform to the Doha mandate, respect the single undertaking, and be
truly multilateral, transparent and inclusive.
International says the countries should have just declared a
moratorium and started everything on a new slate. “The water is
becoming murkier,” said Pradeep S Mehta, secretary-general of the
organisation. “The problem is that the US and the EU have now
decided to start an open-ended agreement on services...a
plurilateral agreement that would not be beneficial for anyone,” he
said. Further, the US is unable to do a deal due to Cotton-4 — and
not because of China or India. “This time, each country also had a
small delegation. But thankfully India was not seen as a spoil
sport,” Mehta added.
Cotton-4 countries, or C-4 countries, imply the four major African
producers of the crop: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali. These
countries had been greatly impacted by the subsidies doled out to
cotton farmers in the US and the EU.
there were some successes in the meeting. Russia, Samoa, Vanuatu and
Montenegro were brought into the group and a last-minute deal to
seal a landmark reform of government procurement rules was agreed.
But the talks started on a sour note when China slapped punitive
duties on large cars and SUVs imported from the US in the latest in
a tit-for-tat trade spat.
to experts, the cost of this failure of the WTO is likely to be
considerable. The next window of opening for a Doha deal would be
available only after a new administration assumes office in the US
laments that it was disconcerting that the conference was not
successful in giving direction on the way forward so far as the Doha
talks are concerned. “We call upon the ministers to step up their
efforts to break the deadlock so that we could move closer to
realising the significant potential of the Doha development round,”
added R V Kanoria, president-elect of the industry chamber.
marks the tenth anniversary of the Doha round of global trade talks
that started in Qatar in 2001. Since then, the talks have missed
Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) notes that it is good that most
countries have agreed to continue the round. “They have committed
that the round is important and that multilateralism is important in
global trade,” said Abhijit Das, head of IIFT’s Centre for WTO
Studies. “One has to be patient while making conclusions about the
round. The matter is highly complex.”
the government, it has highlighted the need to keep the negotiating
process transparent and inclusive. Minister of Commerce and Industry
and Textiles Anand Sharma, who came back yesterday after attending
the meeting in Geneva, articulated India’s strong commitment to the
issues affecting the least developed countries (LDCs), besides the
small and vulnerable economies that have hitherto remained
marginalised from the global trading regime.
minister has been of the view that the smaller and poorer nations
cannot be left behind. “Thus, it is incumbent upon all member-states
to accord highest priority to the concerns of the LDCs,” he added.
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