India hopes global trade talks will resume soon (Lead)

July 31st, 2008 - 6:15 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 31 (IANS) India’s Commerce Minister Kamal Nath Thursday hoped that the global trade talks would resume soon and said his position at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) had the backing of at least 100 developing nations. “I am hopeful that a new process will start soon,” Kamal Nath told a press conference here on his return from Geneva, where Indian interlocutors held their ground at the ministerial meeting on issues like cut in farm subsidies by rich countries and special safeguard mechanism (SSM), among other issues.

“India stands ready whenever the process resumes,” he said but added that he was not sure when the WTO will hold fresh negotiations for launch of a new process. This is necessary to wrap up the Doha Development Round of global trade talks.

The Geneva talks collapsed mainly because of the differences over the SSM - a provision that would permit developing countries to guard against sudden surges in imports or when commodity prices decline.

“It is very unfortunate that the United States thought it fit to create an impasse on SSM for entirely commercial interests at the cost of livelihood security of poor farmers across the developing world,” Kamal Nath said.

He said the US and the EU have been enjoying these safeguards for the last 14 years and have imposed remedies such as tariff hikes to protect their commercial interests as many as 20 times during this period.

Indian and the developing countries want a similar mechanism - not to protect their commercial interests but to protect the livelihood of poor farmers, Kamal Nath said.

The special products and special safeguard mechanism were built into the Doha mandate, he said. “It was just a question of agreeing to the numbers.”

Yet, during the talks in Geneva, the US demanded that the trigger for putting in place remedies should be a 40 percent surge in imports, while developing countries wanted the trigger to be a 10 percent import increase.

“A 40 percent import surge as a trigger for remedies would entirely defeat its very purpose,” he said.

“We were willing to go up to even 15 percent, but if we accept what the US wants our poor farmers would start committing suicide even before we could impose any remedies,” Kamal Nath said. “This was completely unacceptable.”

He said while India was still ready to come to the table to protect the gains achieved in the Doha Development Round so far, there was no question of any compromise on the livelihood security of poor farmers, he said.

The lack of consensus on the issue was not an issue affecting just India.

Developing countries, the African members, the small and vulnerable economies, which together have a membership of more than 100 countries, were all concerned about the livelihood security of farmers and opposed to the US offer.

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