Doha round of talks gathers fresh momentum

Reema Sharma

The Doha Climate Change Conference has once again stirred up the perpetual hope on the successful conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda — more often referred to as the Doha round trade talks — which commenced in November 2001 and has been languishing since 2008 (since its last impasse).

India has always raised concerns on the successful conclusion of the stalled Doha round to settle trade and protectionism issues, although there has been no headway into this.

While no country could deny the objectivity to lower trade barriers around the world that seeks to facilitate the increase of global trade, somehow nothing exceptional has been done either to arrive at a fruitful conclusion.

Developing countries want developed countries to not only open up their markets by reducing protectionist measures, but also remove subsidies that the latter give to its producers.

The jigsaw between developed and developing nations will certainly put pressure on the emerging economies because these are the countries that desperately need to protect their market.

India’s commerce and Industry minister Anand Sharma’s statement also reaffirms the need to come to a conclusion. “We should reenergize and revitalise the stalled WTO process. India feels protectionism or not completing the WTO process will cause further damage to the world economy. It would deepen the recession and delay the recovery,” he said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also put across his suggestion to world leaders at a global economic dialogue in Phnom Penh on the sidelines of the East Asia summit held last week.

Many countries have resorted to conclude bilateral agreements and regional trade pacts at the back of the Doha round’s failure considering that something fruitful can be achieved. At least, that seems to be the only alternative before one can see a conclusive round of the Doha talk.

Case in point: The India-Canada Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA negotiations launched in November 2010) that aims to boost bilateral trade that, in turn, aims to collaborate in sectors like energy, agriculture, infrastructure and education.

Eleven years on, the Doha round of trade talks still looks like a distant dream. Let’s hope that Barack Obama’s being re-elected for the second term and the change of guards in Beijing pave the path towards the successful completion of the trade talks.

And if some kind of consensus is reached, we can be optimistic that the next "ministerial" talks to be held in Bali, in December 2013, give a positive outcome.

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