Manmohan, Bush created WTO breakthrough: report

July 27th, 2008 - 3:05 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, July 27 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush are responsible for creating the first breakthrough in the long-stalled world trade talks in Geneva, a British newspaper reported Sunday. Bush made a private telephone call to Manmohan Singh late Thursday evening, when international attention was focused on presidential candidate Barack Obama’s visit to Europe.

Although the two leaders were meant to have discussed the India-US nuclear deal, the subject swiftly changed to the Doha Development Round, as the ongoing world trade talks are called, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

The call came a day after India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath returned to Geneva amid the gloomy news that the talks had stalled once again.

A disappointed Kamal Nath, in his opening statement to other negotiators at the World Trade Organization (WTO), slammed what he called the “utterly self-righteous” position of rich nations in seeking to deny poor countries the right to safeguard the livelihoods of their farmers while enjoying similar protection for themselves.

“If it means no deal, so be it,” Kamal Nath added.

With the talks now facing collapse seven years after their launch in the Qatari capital, Manmohan Singh and Bush held two more telephone conversations over the next 48 hours, again limiting their subject to trade, the newspaper said.

“The situation seemed intractable. But, overnight, in the hours that followed that first phone call, something changed. India and Brazil started to negotiate. (WTO director general Pascal) Lamy seized the opportunity. He did what many regard as a ‘nuclear option’ for the talks and drafted a short one-page document setting out the key proposals. The deadline for the meetings was pushed back from yesterday (Saturday) to Wednesday,” the newspaper reported.

It speculated about the first telephone call: “Might it go down as the telephone call that helped to salvage George W. Bush’s legacy as President of the United States?”

A senior Indian diplomat in Geneva had told IANS earlier in the week that the “legacy factor” - where the Bush administration could take most of the credit for a Doha deal that would help lift the world economy from its current downturn - could prove to be a crucial factor in the negotiations.

However, despite guarded optimism Sunday about what are reported to be fresh and interesting offers from the US, India, China and Brazil, many hurdles remain to overcome if a deal is to be struck that would make world trade beneficial for developing countries, diplomats warn.

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