India won't trade farmers' interests for Doha deal | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 04, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 04, 2007

India won't trade farmers' interests for Doha deal

India will not sacrifice the interests of its millions of subsistence farmers to clinch a deal in global trade talks, the country's trade minister warned.
Trade Minister Kamal Nath's strong stand came after the head of the World Trade Organisation Pascal Lamy declared late last week he hoped to finally secure an agreement in the Doha round of international trade negotiations by the end of 2008 -- four years later than initially scheduled.
While admitting that the United States, a key player in the talks, has "sensitivities" in agriculture, Nath said, "We in India also have sensitivities of 650 million subsistence farmers" and will safeguard their interests at all cost.
"We cannot have a subsidised market access which destabilises our farmers," Nath told 750 delegates of the India Economic Summit organised by the World Economic Forum in the Indian capital late on Sunday.
"We cannot negotiate subsistence" in the Doha development round -- billed as a once-in-a-generation chance to raise the standard of living of millions of poor people.
"We have already told the United States that if they commit on lowering their (agricultural) subsidies by just one dollar ... the deal is acceptable to us," he said.
"But I have not got any response so far," said Nath, a vociferous critic of what he says are efforts by the United States and other developed countries to perpetuate distortions in the trade talks.
The United States says it has made concessions on its trade-distorting farm subsidies and that tougher demands could torpedo a deal but developing nations say the US moves are not enough.
Developing and emerging nations are seeking cuts in farm subsidies and on import tariffs for farm produce, particularly by the United States, while rich countries want more access to markets in poorer economies for industrial goods.
Agriculture comprises around eight percent of total global exports but it is crucial to unblocking the Doha round aimed at boosting the world economy and allowing poor countries to use trade as an exit from poverty.
India also needs a deal that will ensure its "small and infant industries" do not have to face competition from cheap goods in industrialised countries.
A rule-based multilateral trading system is as key to India as it is to the United States and the European Union and in fact, "we need it more than any other stronger player," Nath said.
"A multilateral rule-based system is here to stay. Bilateral agreements are only building blocks and they can not replace the multilateral system."
Nath said he was "optimistic we will conclude" a new global pact but set no timeframe. However, he said trade distortions must be resolved as the round was not about perpetuating an uneven playing field.
India had unilaterally reduced its tariffs substantially over the last few years to "10 percent and lower" but developed nations want India to make cuts above what it has already made, he added.
The 151 WTO members have been deadlocked since the Doha Development Round was first launched in 2001.

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