Kamal Nath talks Doha with top US officials

June 12th, 2008 - 11:31 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 12 (IANS) India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath has held high level discussions with US officials on how to take forward the Doha round of world trade talks stalled over differences on market opening in agriculture. Kamal Nath, who arrived here Wednesday, met US Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer and Secretary of Treasury Henry M. Paulson for what the Indian embassy described as “bilateral discussions on WTO-related issues.”

He also met briefly with US Trade Representative (USTR) Susan C. Schwab. The two would be meeting again Thursday for detailed discussions on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). They had met last month in New York to resolve their differences over Doha.

Two days before the talks, a senior US official had accused India of trying to wreck world trade liberalisation talks, asking it to take responsible leadership as a major economic power “rather than working behind the scenes for Doha’s demise”.

India continues to insist that it and other developing countries be protected from any real market opening in industrial goods or agriculture or services, while it asks developed countries to do ever more, US Under Secretary of Commerce Christopher Padilla said at a forum.

Kamal Nath has continually insisted that New Delhi will not sacrifice the interests of its millions of subsistence farmers to clinch a deal in the global trade talks.

Kamal Nath Wednesday also met with Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade deals. They discussed matters relating to the current status of the Doha Round negotiations and recent positive developments in bilateral commercial and economic relations.

In addition to DDA, Kamal Nath’s discussions with Paulson also touched other issues of mutual interest in bilateral relations including a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). Second round of exploratory discussions on BIT is being held in Washington from June 11 to 13.

Kamal Nath would feature in a discussion Thursday on “India in the 21st Century - A Partner in Free-market Democracy” presented by TV show host by Charlie Rose at the US-India Global Partnership Summit. The minister would conclude with remarks on “Aspirations for the India-US Partnership”.

Gutierrez and US Schwab are among the other keynote speakers at the event organised by the US-India Business Council (USIBC), a leading advocacy group seeking commercial ties between the two countries, to mark its 33rd anniversary.

Gutierrez visited India in February 2007 and USTR Schwab in April 2007. Kamal Nath visited US in February 2008 for the bilateral Trade Policy Forum meeting.

Presided over by the new USIBC Chairman, Indra K. Nooyi of PepsiCo, the summit will also honour Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman & CEO of Bharati Enterprises, Ustad Zakir Hussain, tabla maestro, and Kenneth Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express, for their respective contributions in bringing India and the US closer together.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Chip Kaye, co-president of Warburg Pincus, Greg Fleming, president & COO of Merrill Lynch, Charles Rangel, New York Congressman, Vijay Mallya, CEO of UB Group, and senior management from USIBC member companies are also expected to attend.

Trade and commerce form a crucial component in the rapidly transforming and multi-faceted relations between India and US. From a modest $ 14.4 billion in 2000, bilateral trade in merchandise goods has increased to $ 41.6 billion in 2007, representing an impressive three-fold growth in a span of 7 years.

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