New Delhi: Trade officials from 35 countries met here today setting the tone for tomorrow`s WTO informal Ministerial meeting being hosted by India to inject political momentum into Doha talks, meant to open the USD 32-trillion global trade.
A day before the meeting of key ministers from the US,
European Union, Australia, Brazil, China, South Africa and
Canada, among others, begin amid tight security, Commerce and
Industry Minister Anand Sharma held several bilateral
Sharma met Australian Minister of Trade Simon Crean, News
Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser and UK Secretary of State
for International Development Douglas Alexander to discuss how
the divide between the rich and developing countries be
Along side, the Left parties and scores of farmers`
bodies and NGOs vowed to hold protest demonstrations in the
city tomorrow against free trade conclave.
While the meeting in New Delhi is largely an India
initiative, the WTO has announced schedule for the Ministerial
Meeting of 153 trade ministers (the highest policy-making
organ) in Geneva from November 30-December 2. WTO chief Pascal
Lamy is also attending the informal meeting here.
The contentious issues include farm subsidy in the
developed countries, demand for market access in developing
countries and level of farmers protection there.
The paper put up by India before the trade officials
today said over the last few months leaders at international
meetings, including the G-20 Summits in Washington and London,
had set a deadline of 2010 for concluding the Doha Round.
"The political signals have been strong and unambiguous.
These expression of political will are encouraging," the paper
However, it posed certain questions to the negotiators.
These included the issue of transparency and movement of
negotiations for opening trade in services (area of great
interest to India).
Though, developed countries expect India to show
flexibility being the host country, New Delhi reiterated its
stand of development dimensions of liberalising the world
Sharma, who will chair the meeting, will inaugurate the
deliberations tomorrow and coordinators of groupings of
different interest would interact with broader sections to see
the depth of differences and how they can be resolved.
Meanwhile, farmers organisations and Left parties have
planned protest march against the meeting.
In a joint letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA
Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, over 174 farmers` bodies and NGOs
said India`s attempt to re-energise the WTO talks is "flawed
Industry chambers FICCI and CII said the ministerial
meeting would provide the much needed momentum to Doha
"Delhi Ministerial is significant as ministers
representing diverse country groups and coalitions are
participating. This will augur well towards bringing the Doha
trade talks back on track," Ficci President Harsh Pati
CII said the meeting would be a platform for different
interest groups to come together. "This would make the meeting
inclusive...," CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said.
Assocham, has asked the government raise its voice
against treating domestic industry on equal footing with those
of developed world in WTO`s mini trade minister conference.
It said the advanced countries continue to provide
liberally subsidies and protection to their industries, and
insist that developing world should not resort to raise
barriers in the smooth flow of world trade.
"This double speak should be opposed tooth and nail..,"
Assocham Secretary General D S Rawat said.
Later in the day an official statement said the discussions at the preparatory meet to the ministerial meeting beginning tomorrow was confined to "process-related" issues.
"The intention was to gauge whether a broad-based consensus could be arrived at on how Ministers would like to
see the process of negotiation fast-tracked," it said.
On the basis of the discussion paper, participants discussed the issue of timeliness for completing modalities in
agriculture and NAMA and for revised offers in services and the sequence in which all areas being negotiated under the Doha Round are to be completed, it said.
The development mandate, which is the bedrock of the Doha Round was also emphasised during the meeting.
"It was stated that focus had to be maintained on development concerns in developing economies," it added.
Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar chaired the preparatory meeting.