Anand Sharma pushes for reviving global trade talks (Lead)

June 8th, 2009 - 7:53 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 8 (IANS) Moves to restart stalled global trade talks have begun with a series of meetings in Bali on the sidelines of a conference among 19 farm products exporting countries, where Commerce Minister Anand Sharma is representing India.
Sharma had bilateral talks with several of his counterparts at the luxury beach resort of Nusa Dua on Bali island, including US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, to restart the trade talks, officials here said.

He also addressed the Cairns Group meeting, where he said India was committed to seeing the conclusion of the Doha Development Round that was started in the Qatari capital over a decade ago.

“The development dimension of the Doha round must be central to all discussions and the aspirations of all developing countries for a fair trading regime must be recognised,” Sharma told the Cairns Group meeting, to which India and the US are special invitees.

The Cairns Group comprises Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay.

Besides the US, the Indian minister held talks with his counterparts from New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia. He will hold another round of talks with World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director General Pascal Lamy, whom he had met with Sunday.

During Sharma’s first round of substantive talks with the US trade representative - both of whom are new in their respective portfolios - there was a broad agreement to ensure early conclusion of the trade talks.

“The two ministers agreed to take forward the multilateral negotiations and to review the US-India bilateral engagement during the visit of Minister Sharma to Washington later this month,” a commerce ministry statement said.

According to officials here familiar with the developments in Indonesia, there was considerable interest in the meetings Sharma had with other trade ministers, as India holds the key, along with the US, to the conclusion of the trade talks.

“India and the US of course are critical to trying to bring about a conclusion to this round,” Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean, who is chairing the meeting, told reporters Sunday at the opening of the group’s three-day meeting.

“Everybody knows US and India are the most important players in terms of setting the tone and providing how far the agreement can go. The new administrations on both sides are providing a fresh perspective in how they see this global issue can be solved.”

The global trade talks had collapsed again last year due to serious differences between India and the US over tariffs, farm subsidies and market access. Now, with the world reeling under a slowdown, there is a new push to revive the trade talks.

Ahead of his departure for Indonesia, Sharma had said he hoped to re-start the process for the successful conclusion of the Doha round and looked forward to his meeting with other trade ministers, especially Kirk.

He had a telephone conversation with Kirk June 1, soon after taking over as commerce minister, during which they agreed to work closely to revive the stalled process.

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