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Under pressure, India makes U-turn

Posted by Ramoo on March 16, 2007

At a two-day international seminar on “Saving Doha and delivering on development” that concluded at New Delhi on 13 March, India’s Commerce Minister Kamal Nath provided ample evidence of India’s willingness to go along with the rich and industrialised countries. The writing is on the wall, says Devinder Sharma.

15 March 2007 – The writing is clearly on the wall. With India succumbing to pressure and the G-33 group of developing countries unlikely to stand in the way, the controversial Doha Development Round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) may just be all set to sail through.

At a two-day international seminar on “Saving Doha and delivering on development” that concluded at New Delhi on Mar 13, India’s Commerce Minister Kamal Nath provided ample evidence of India’s willingness to go along with the rich and industrialised countries. In what appears to be a u-turn in India’s position so far, Mr Kamal Nath said: “This round is not about removal, but about reduction of distortions that lead to artificiality in prices.”

To be seen in conjunction with what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the same day at another roundtable organised by The Economist in New Delhi: “India was committed to an early positive conclusion of the Doha Development Round,” the underlying message is crystal clear.

For a few months now, after the suspension of the Doha round negotiations in mid-2006, New Delhi has been under pressure to drop its opposition. WTO chief Pascal Lamy had time and again visited India, and had used every opportunity to negotiate on behalf of the developed countries so much so that he was allowed to walk after he had literally threatened India. Knowing well that Kamal Nath’s ‘tough’ posturing is aimed only at the media, Lamy now made it abundantly clear that an agreement on Doha round has to be reached before the expiry of the US Trade Promotion Agreement in June.

If the agreement is not signed by June, the US President will lose his Fast Track authority to approve international trade agreements, which means the US Senate/Congress will then oversee the agreements. That is why the US wants to hurry. If no agreement is signed by June it will still be beneficial for Indian agriculture. As long as the subsidies stay in the rich countries, we will not be able to protect our agriculture.

The two-day conference in New Delhi was therefore an effort by the Ministry of Commerce to provide justification for a complete somersault in its official stand. The list of invitees, and the selective picking up of speakers and rapporteurs made the real objective copiously clear. Keeping the real stakeholders away, and ensuring that the critical voices were not present, “Saving Doha” became the rallying point.

for complete article http://www.indiatogether.org/2007/mar/dsh-dohaindi…

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