WTO chief Lamy sounds warning on Doha round

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New Delhi, Jun 29: World Trade Organisation chief Pascal Lamy has warned that if modalities on agriculture and industrial drafts are not finalised in July, the chances of concluding the Doha round of global trade negotiations this year are much less than 50 per cent.

The troubled Doha round is in the works for over six years and developing countries, including India, are not happy over the ways it is moving. At an informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee(TNC) in Geneva over the weekend, Lamy urged "maximum effort from everyone over the next weeks" to ensure a productive meeting of a number of ministers scheduled for the week of July 21. He said the immediate challenge is to make progress that "will provide a basis for improved texts in agriculture and Nama(non-agriculture market access)".

Speaking of various processes required to reach the stage where a formal meeting of TNC could take place, Lamy said chances of getting there are over 50 per cent. But if there are no modalities in July, the chances of concluding the Doha round this year are much less than 50 per cent, he added.

The WTO Director-General called for serious and intensive negotiations over the coming days to increase the chances from above 50 per cent to somewhere around 75 per cent, claiming this is achievable.

He said the immediate challenge for the coming days is to make progress on key issues which will provide a basis for improved texts in agriculture and Nama. Once that goal is achieved, preparation for productive ministerial discussion can begin, he added.

However, Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security, New Delhi has sounded a note of caution on Doha round. A backgrounder circulated by it on June 11 concluded that developing countries are not going to gain much from the Doha round. Quoting studies conducted by the World Bank and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Forum said gains to developing countries from the conclusion of the Doha round are either minimal or non-existent.

Projections of the gains from a "likely Doha scenario" show that just 16 billion dollar out of 96 billion dollar would go to developing countries and the real beneficiaries of the increased trade would be the agribusiness corporations.

Adjusting for special and sensitive products in agriculture, developing country gains come to just 6.7 billion dollar out of a total of 38.4 billion dollar. In other words, 6.7 billion dollar is the total welfare gain that is expected from a successful Doha round. This gain is for 110 developing countries. For India, it means nothing since its annual Budget for the Rural Development Ministry is higher than the total gains the entire developing world is being promised, the Forum added.

UNI

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