Trade negotiators were close to reaching a mutually-convenient multi-lateral deal on the contentious Doha round of talks of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said on Tuesday.
Nath, however, cautioned that India would not compromise on the livelihood security of India’s subsistence farmers.
“Where we are today, it is closer than ever before to closing the Doha round. In the next two months, I hope we will be able to find some convergence in it,” Nath told global industry captains at the Fortune Global Forum here.
The so-called Doha round of trade talks, which began in 2001, has been billed as an opportunity to boost the world economy and reduce poverty through greater trade, but negotiations have struggled to regain momentum after they broke down last July.
Nath said that unless the sensitivities on agriculture were addressed, India would not be in a position to exercise flexibility on the matter.
“We are willing to negotiate commerce but not willing to negotiate subsistence farmers,” he said.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram also felt that the growing protectionist tendency among some advanced nations was hurting global trade.
“Although through globalisation of trade in recent years our exports have grown on an average 20 per cent a year, but there are some aspects that worry us,” Chidambaram said.
Nath said that the US has shown flexibility on India’s sensitivities and a convergence of views have emerged after the circulation of draft texts circulated in July this year.
The commerce minister also expressed concern about incidence of child labour in Indian textile manufacturers supplying for global apparel major GAP.
“I am seriously concerned over these reports. There would be pressure on the government to take retaliatory measures,” he said.
US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said that the Doha round of talks were the single most important thing the Indian and US government should work together on. He praised India for the gain in the rupee and felt China could do the same by allowing its currency to
“Look at the way this country (India) has allowed the rupee’s value to be set based on economic fundamentals. China has got some work to do,” he said.