'It's 'now or never' for breaking Doha impasse'

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New Delhi, Apr 6: World Bank president Robert B Zoellick said time has come to break the impasse over Doha round of negotiations on agriculture, manufacturing sector, services and rules in the face of current global crisis.

Speaking in Washington ahead of meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund next week, he warned the time is "now or never" for breaking the deadlock and reaching a global trade deal. "This moment of decision is not only for the Doha Round. It is for trade itself." In Singapore over the weekend, India Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said, '' Our deadline (for the Doha round) is May 31, for either putting it on the backburner or really cooking something. I am looking forward to the agriculture paper, the US and the European Union must recognise that unless they come up with something on the table, there is no way we can have progress in this (sector).''

Decrying those calling for and rationalising protectionism, including in United States, Mr Zoellick warned, ''this economic isolationism signals a defeatism that will reap losses and not gains, of globalisation.'' Stating that the poor need lower food prices, he said now is the time to cut distorting agricultural subsidies and open markets for food imports. India, too, has been pressing for cutting these distorting farm subsidies but U S and European Union have been resisting deep cuts.

He said a fairer and more open global trading system for agriculture will give more opportunities and confidence to developing countries' farmers to expand production. At the same time, the World Bank chief said the key challenge before Doha negotiators is to balance deep, progressive tariff cuts with "flexibilities" that offer exceptions. India has also been demanding flexibilities, particularly for staples such as rice and wheat, to protect livelihood of millions for its subsistence farmers as also for food security of her people.

Disagreeing with a suggestion that developing countries will gain in agriculture while giving up protection of manufactures, Mr Zoellick said "this is misleading" considering the rise of manufacturing in developing countries and global sourcing for sustaining it. He said "both developing and developed economies will gain from lower barriers to goods." The World Bank president said Doha deal, which has been in the work since November 2001, should also boost markets for services, which are an increasing share of global GDP, enablers of national development and infrastructure, and complement measures to facilitate trade.

The Doha deal should also clarify "rules" that impede trade, he added.

Mr Zoellick said Doha accord would contribute to inclusive and sustainable globalisation. A breakthrough in Doha round, he added, would also infuse confidence in an economic system stressed by financial anxiety.

"This moment of decision is not only for the Doha round. It is for trade itself. Powerful voices across the political spectrum, including in my own country, are calling for, and rationalizing, protectionism. This economic isolationism signals a defeatism that will reap the losses, not the gains, of globaliztion," Mr Zoellick said.


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