WTO talks will succeed it they strengthen the weakest: Kamal Nath (Lead)

August 12th, 2008 - 9:19 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 12 (IANS) Talks at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will resume and will be successful if the negotiations focused less on survival of the fittest and more on strengthening the weakest, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said here Tuesday. “We will see economic architecture not only dictated by World Trade Organisation (WTO) rounds but also technology and demographics… technology meaning broadband,” he said.

“This round is not about increasing prosperity but decreasing poverty, not survival of the fittest but revival of the weakest. If this is the fundamental of the round, it will certainly succeed in some way,” Kamal Nath told reporters on the sidelines of a conference here.

The two-day conference - on global partnership for development - has been organised jointly by industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and non-governmental organisation Consumer Unity and Trust Society.

With WTO director general Pascal Lamy currently in India, the trade talks, which collapsed last month in Geneva over a proposal to help poor farmers cope with import surge, are expected to be revived.

“I have a simple message for Delhi and Washington. Look careful at what is on the table and listen to all WTO members to conclude the negotiations,” said Lamy, who was also at the conference.

“The good news is there is a possibility that we can still move forward and conclude the negotiations within the timeframe that all WTO members agreed, end of 2008,” he added.

Lamy said there are two diverging views on Special Safeguards Mechanisms (SSM) - a contingency restriction on imports taken temporarily to deal with special circumstances such as a sudden surge in imports - over which talks broke down last month.

Developing countries say they need a safety net against a surge in imports to protect their farming system.

The developed world led by the US says like all safeguards under the WTO rules, SSM should be subject to certain conditions and limitations in order to ensure that it does not hamper normal trade flows and is not misused.

During the Geneva talks, it was suggested that the safeguard mechanism in developing countries come into effect if a country’s imports surged by 40 percent.

But India and the other developing countries wanted this trigger to become active in case of a 10 percent volume surge.

“That was the main political difference,” Lamy said.

However, Kamal Nath said if developing countries were to reduce tariff and there was huge import surge, capping the surge at 40 percent was suicidal. “By the time imports reach that level, my farmers would have committed suicide,” he remarked.

While it is being acknowledged that agriculture subsidies by the developed nations are trade distorting and need to be brought down, the sacrifice being asked for from developing countries was harsh, he added.

Kamal Nath and Lamy will meet again Wednesday to discuss the deal.

The United Progressive Alliance government has expressed concern over market-opening clauses like anti-concentration and sectorals.

Sectors like automobile, auto components, textiles, marine products and chemicals in India were likely to be severely hurt if these clauses were included in the final agreement, as this would result in cheaper imports from developed nations.

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