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WTO talks may not have ended yet

The Doha round of trade liberalisation is not dead, it will just take a little longer, says WTO DG Lamy.

, TNN|
Jul 27, 2006, 12.00 AM IST
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NEW DELHI: The Doha round of trade liberalisation is not dead, it will only live a little longer than originally planned, World Trade Organisation director general Pascal Lamy told ET. That the negotiators have breached several self-imposed deadlines for concluding the round does not mean its curtains for the Doha round. Mr Lamy is hopeful that informal contact between the key players of the round — the EU, US, India and Brazil — could nudge the talks ahead.

Speaking at a teleconference with select newspapers from around the world (ET being the only one from India), Mr Lamy said that he had started talking to members informally urging them not to keep shooting at each other. “There will certainly be informal contacts between members.

Sometimes informal contacts without deadlines are very effective,” he said. The DG, however, refused to give any indication about when the talks for liberalising markets in agriculture, industrial goods and services could be resumed. “While some say that it could happen before the US mid-term elections, there are others who feel that it would happen after the elections.

It is not possible to say exactly when,” he said. Considered a key factor, the US election is scheduled for November. The Doha trade talks had come to a halt earlier this week when the six leading members of WTO failed to agree on the modalities for opening up agriculture and industry. The talks have been on since November ‘01.

It may be recalled that the Uruguay round, which culminated in the creation of the World Trade Organisation, lasted more than eight years. The preceding Tokyo round, with a much smaller agenda, stretched to six years.

On an optimistic note, Mr Lamy said that negotiations could be re-started as soon as members indicated that they were ready to compromise. “If I have a feeling at some stage that there is a lowering of positions by members, I will myself re-start the engine,” he said.

On India’s position, Mr Lamy said that commerce & industry minister Kamal Nath had clearly stated that India’s necessity to protect livelihood of farmers. While stating that India needs to provide market access in agriculture and industrial goods, he said its concerns related to special products also needed to be addressed. The possibility of coming out with his own draft agreement was not precluded by Mr Lamy. “It will be the last option. Right now it is not possible to produce a draft because there are huge differences,” he said.

Acknowledging that the US demands for market access in agriculture was not commensurate with its offers on domestic subsidies, Mr Lamy urged all members to do some introspection on their stated positions. “Members should take out some time to make a comparison between domestic costs of an agreement and systemic costs of a failure,” he said.
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