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US wrecked WTO Geneva meet;India only reacted to rigid stand

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, July 4 (UNI) The US efforts to re-write the Hong Kong Declaration of 2005 and the July Framework of 2004 and seek markets from the developing countries for its farmers, without giving anything in return, led to the impasse and collapse of the WTO Mini Ministerial Meeting at Geneva.

''We made it clear that any settlement entailing heavy sacrifices by developing countries in terms of market access in agriculture and industrial tariffs with only moderate offers for reduction in agricultural subsidy by developed countries, was not acceptable,'' Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath told reporters here today.

But for the US, all other developed countries in the G-Six grouping (India, Brazil, US, EU, Australia and Japan) were willing to toe the G-20 line in all the three pillars-market access, cut in domestic support and export competition.

Disappointed trade ministers left the ball in the court of WTO Director General Pascal Lamy, who has been authorised to be an ''honest broker'' in reconciling the members' position and see whether any deal could be reached by the end of August, if not July end.

Mr Kamal Nath, though is not sure whether any deadline can be met.

According to sources, the new US Trade Representative Susan Schewab wanted to reopen the earlier commitments made by the US in the Hong Kong Declaration and the July Framework.

''Leave alone agreeing to more cuts in the domestic support given by way of cheque payment to their farmers, Ms Schewab wanted additional market access for her rich farmers in the developing countries even if the US had to maintain the present level of support,'' top sources involved in the negotiations said.

It virtually led to a deadlock, for the U-turn by the US not only offended the developing countries, but also European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.

''In the absence of the trade talks moving forward, it was no surprise that the trade ministers lost interest and wanted the mini-ministerial to end early so that they could go and watch FIFA matches,'' sources said.

The USTR did not like the G-20 formula of 54 per cent cut in agriculture tariff and insisted on 64 per cent. Besides, Ms Schewab did not want the window of Special Products (SPs), meant for giving protection to the farmers of the developing countries.

She said that the Special Products would not enable the market access. In return, she was told point-blank by Mr Kamal Nath that the SPs were meant only to disable market access and not enable market access.

For countries like India, the SPs are the lifeline for the vulnerable agriculture, which is already in dire straits. No Commerce Minister could agree on a limited number of SPs (products on which the developing countries can self-determine its own tariff protection).

As regards the controversy whether India walked out of the WTO talks, Mr Kamal Nath was frank enough to state that he said in Geneva that there was no point in continuing the talks if the US took such a hardline.

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