Ahead of Sep meet, India warns US, EU against trade barriers

Written by fe Bureaus | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 27 2009, 05:09am hrs
Even as top negotiators from the United States and the European Union prepare to attend the informal ministerial meeting on global trade talks in New Delhi, India on Tuesday warned against trade-restrictive measures initiated by the two key World Trade Organisation members.

United States trade representative Ron Kirk, European Union (EU) trade commissioner Catherine Ashton and her colleague handling farm issues Mariam Fischer Boel and 30 other trade ministers would attend the Delhi summit on September 2 & 3.

The objective of the meeting, which will be chaired by India, is to revive the Doha Round of trade talks, which are in a limbo since July 2008.

Addressing a conference of Indian diplomats here, commerce minister Anand Sharma highlighted the protectionist and unfair trade measures initiated by the United States and the 27 nation-promoted EU.

The law enacting buy America provisions (by the US) is a case in point. Similarly, we have seen the imposition of non-tariff barriers to free trade. Our consignments of pharmaceuticals bound for Africa are repeatedly held up in the European Union. I will urge the heads of our missions to remain vigilant to such trends and enable us to respond to growing protectionism in the West, Sharma said.

Though 35 trade ministers and top WTO brass including director-general Pascal Lamy will attend the meeting, its outcome will have an impact on over 100 WTO member countries. The participating nations are key members of various WTO lobby groups like the G-10, Nama11, Cotton 4 and G-90. India is a member of WTO groups like the G-33which wants to have flexibility in maintaining higher duty on certain farm products, as well as the G-20, which is a coalition of developing nations demanding a fair environment for global agriculture trade.

Time has come when all the negotiators should decide on how to move beyond words and chalk out an action plan for what needs to get done in Geneva, commerce secretary Rahul Khullar told the media here.

India maintains that the meeting will not mean dilution of its earlier stand to protect the interests of poor farmers from surge in cheap agricultural imports. In addition, India has been demanding that market access talks on industrial goods should be based on the parameters mentioned in a draft agreement released by the WTO on December, 2008.

Invited WTO members include Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Brazil, Argentina and Japan. This is the first time after July, 2008 that trade ministers will meet to discuss the Doha Round.

The conference will begin with an opening statement by India. In its various sessions, participating trade ministers will try to evolve a consensus on the possible ways, by which the Doha Round could be taken forward.

Meanwhile, the global trade talks, which have been going on since 2001, have been in the agenda of numerous multi-nation meetings, including the Washington and London summits of the G-20 nations. But these meetings did not result in resumption of talks amongst negotiators at Geneva-based headquarters of WTO.