US asks India to open markets ahead of talks with Kamal Nath

May 8th, 2008 - 10:03 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 8 (IANS) The US wants advanced developing countries like India, China and Brazil to open their markets to finish the Doha round of world trade talks before President George Bush leaves office next January. “The President’s commitment to the Round is unequivocal; the process in Geneva rolls on; and my schedule continues to take me wherever there are trade ministers interested in finding that elusive breakthrough,” United States Trade Representative (USTR) Susan Schwab said Wednesday.

But “the big question for the Round is whether the emerging markets like China, India and Brazil are willing to make contributions to global market opening commensurate with their growth rates and levels of development,” the top US trade official said ahead of a meeting in New York Thursday with Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath.

Kamal Nath arrived in New York Wednesday to meet Schwab in another bid to achieve a breakthrough on agriculture that has been at the core of global trade talks since they began in November 2001 in the capital city of Qatar.

Reports from New Delhi indicate India, the world’s 11th biggest food exporter according to WTO figures, is unlikely to soften its stance on agriculture as it prefers no deal to one that neglects the needs of poor countries.

“There is no scope for accepting any proposal which compromises agriculture. We have to ensure that the United States comes down very very substantially on its subsidies,” Nath is reported to have said last week.

“We do understand that in the United States with the election atmosphere… the space available to their negotiators may not be enough,” he said adding, “India wants to be a part of the solution in closing this round but this has to be an equitable package.”

Speaking on “The US Trade Agenda” at the Peterson Institute For International Economics, Schwab stressed the importance of the US commitment to free and fair trade for American workers, farmers and entrepreneurs.

“You understand the need for a level playing field for American goods and services in the international marketplace - a marketplace where 95 percent of our potential customers lie beyond our borders, a marketplace in which we must compete to succeed,” she said.

The US, Brazil, the European Union and a core group of other countries were working hard in Geneva to try to narrow the gaps in the negotiations aimed at spurring economic development through increased trade in agriculture, manufacturing and services, Schwab said in another speech at the State Department.

“The question is what is the contribution that China is going to make? What is the contribution that India is going to make?” Schwab asked at a meeting of the Council of Americas, a Western Hemisphere business group.

“It is our objective to see the Doha round conclude on our watch,” she said but “that can’t be just any old Doha round. We’re not going to sign up to a bad agreement just to get an agreement in 2008.”

Suggesting a failure to reach a deal this year could delay an agreement indefinitely, Schwab said: “If you don’t do it in 2008, 2009 and 2010 are not likely to help us accomplish it” because of the change in the US administration, a turnover in the leadership of the European Commission and a variety of other reasons.

For a deal to come together, rich countries such as the US and those of the European Union need to “really lean forward and make the tough decisions to make the tariff cuts and the subsidy cuts that we need to do,” Schwab said.

But it also requires “this tier of advanced developing countries taking on a set of (market-opening) responsibilities that are more than other developing countries,” she said.

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