Doha round in its last mile; India's concerns must be addressed

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New Delhi, Oct 30: Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath today gave good news to leading global CEOs assembled in the capital that the Doha Development round was closer than ever before to come to a conclusion, but added that for India to use its flexibilities its "senisitivities" must be addressed.

Addressing the 'Fortune Global Forum' here, the Minister said in the next two months the negotiations of the Doha round would reach a greater level of "convergence" where India would express its reservations, which primarily pertained to its concerns relating to the agriculture sector.

''Things have changed in the last two months and countries now want to go ahead with the process and a lot of convergence is happening on this. We are now on the last mile and if this mile can be run, we will be there,'' Mr Nath said.

The Forum has brought together CEOs from all over the world as also leading figures from the world of academics, politics and media.

Mr Nath said the draft paper prepared by the chairs of the Doha Round have enabled countries to do their own ''simulations.'' The Minister quoted the US Treasury Secretary Henry M Paulson as having stated that his country was desirous to see the current round of negotiations close.

He said the United States has spoken of a greater flexibility on its part. ''I think they (US) are taking on board our sensitivity on certain issues,'' Mr Nath said. He said India can afford flexiblity in matters pertaining to commerce, but was not willing to trade off its interests on subsistence farming and livelihood.

In this context he cited figures to show that a huge population of the country still survived on an income of a dollar a day. ''India has 650 million farmers and 300 million people live on income of less then one dollar a day and unless these sensitivities are taken on board, India cannot show greater flexibility. We hope in the next two months we can find some convergence on this,'' he said.

Mr Nath infact felt that the sensitivities of all countries need to be addressed. The Minister said the India growth story was not export-led, but largely domestic driven.

Mr Nath dwelt at length on the manner in which India launched itself into the process of globalisation and the benefits it has bestowed on it. ''India is not seeking the labour arbitrage, but seeks investments because of its ability to innovate, adopt and adapt,'' he said.

Exuding confidence that India will continue to be a favourite parking lot for foreign investments, Mr Nath said the country's fundamentals were strong.

''We now seeks to engage with the world economies at a greater level,'' he said.


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