Trade tops agenda as Kamal Nath meets top US officials (Lead)

June 12th, 2008 - 4:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 12 (IANS) Amid US allegations that India was derailing the Doha round of global trade talks, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath met with top officials of the George W. Bush administration here on how to take the deadlocked negotiations forward. The Indian minister, who arrived Wednesday, met US Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson for talks on issues related with the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

He also briefly met US Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab. Another such meeting is scheduled for a detailed discussion on the Doha Development Agenda. The two had met last month in New York to resolve their differences over Doha.

Kamal Nath insisted that New Delhi will not sacrifice the interests of its millions of subsistence farmers to clinch a deal in the global trade talks, officials at the Indian embassy here said.

Two days ago, a senior US official accused India of trying to wreck the global 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 real market opening in industrial goods, agriculture and services, and also asks rich nations to do ever more, US Under Secretary of Commerce Christopher Padilla said at a forum.

The Indian minister also met Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee that has jurisdiction over trade deals. They discussed matters related with the current status of global trade talks and the positive developments in India-US economic relations.

In addition, Kamal Nath’s discussions with Paulson also touched other issues of mutual interest in bilateral relations including a bilateral investment treaty, for which the second round of discussions is current being held here.

The minister is also expected to participate later this evening in a discussion on “India in the 21st Century - A Partner in Free-market Democracy” presented by TV show host Charlie Rose at the US-India Global Partnership Summit.

Gutierrez and Schwab are among the other keynote speakers at the event that is 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 Feb 2007 and Schwab April 2007. Kamal Nath visited US Feb 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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