US again harps on market opening by emerging economies

May 20th, 2008 - 12:43 pm ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 20 (IANS) The US has signalled it is ready to make “tough political choices” to conclude a new world trade agreement provided emerging economies like India too make “market-opening contributions” in tune with their new role. “We are going to be studying these revised texts in the days ahead,” a spokesperson of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) said here Monday as a revised negotiating text on agriculture talks at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was released in Geneva.

“We are prepared to make the tough political choices necessary to conclude an agreement, as others will need to do as well,” Gretchen Hamel, USTR spokesperson, stated without naming any country, but with obvious reference to countries like India, China and Brazil.

“Specifically, we will be looking to see how the world’s largest and fastest growing economies are going to make market-opening contributions commensurate with their increasing participation and role in the world economy,” she said.

“The US is committed to concluding a successful Doha Round this year that achieves new market access for agricultural and industrial products and services in both developed and emerging market economies,” Hamel said.

According to reports from Geneva, New Zealand’s WTO ambassador Crawford Falconer, the chairman of agriculture talks, called on delegates to discuss the new text from May 26 saying there were relatively few “hot spots” left to reach a blueprint deal.

India’s core demands in the Doha agricultural agenda, related to both flexible treatment of special products and the special safeguard mechanism, have been properly reflected in the second revised draft, media reports from Geneva suggest.

This has been done by including India’s proposal that 12-20 per cent of farm tariff lines will be eligible for special product treatment. Also included is a proposal to exempt 5 per cent farm tariff lines from tariff cut.

On the special safeguard mechanism, which allows developing countries to impose curbs on excessive imports that aim to damage domestic producers, the chair included India’s proposals as well as the elements proposed by the opponents of the mechanism.

As regards the cuts on overall trade-distorting domestic subsidies, which is one of the central issues involving rising farm subsidies in the industrialised countries, the draft asks the US to agree to reduce its overall subsidies to a level between $13 billion and $ 16.4 billion. However, the US wants to continue around $17 billion.

Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath, had met USTR Susan Schwab in New York May 9 to how to accelerate the talks so as to conclude them by the end of the year. The two are scheduled to meet again in Washington June 11.

Kamal Nath then told Schwab that complex issues of subsidies and sensitivities on market access, especially in developing countries, in relation to food security and livelihood concerns of poor farmers were at the heart of the development dimension of the Doha Round.

Reduction of subsidies, agreement on a disciplined regime to guide such subsidies in future, the instruments of special products and special safeguards, measures to address developing country concerns, tropical products and preference erosion are some of the key issues still to be resolved in the negotiations.

The 151 member-countries of the WTO launched a new round of negotiations in Doha in Qatar in 2001 to agree upon a multilateral rule-based trading system that seeks to reduce agricultural subsidies and trade barriers.

Since then, the talks have failed to reach a conclusion as India and other developing countries demand that rich nations such as the US and the European Union states reduce their farm subsidies and throw open their agricultural markets by significantly cutting tariffs.

On the other side, developed nations want developing countries to drastically reduce tariffs on their industrial produce and service liberalisation.

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