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US slowdown improves chances for global trade deal

As the United States' faces economic recession, chances of a global trade deal have brightened with key WTO members agreeing for next Ministerial Meeting in March.

business Updated: Jan 26, 2008 22:51 IST

As the United States' faces economic recession, chances of a global trade deal have brightened with key WTO members agreeing for next Ministerial Meeting in March.

"Momentum has never been as good, particularly because of the economic outlook in developed countries," Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath told reporters after meeting of 16 trade ministers on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum annual meet here.

"There is clearly a momentum. All of us, including the US, are committed to seeing successful conclusion of the Doha Round in 2008," US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said.

She said the US was "ready to go as far to get the job done and I am optimistic".

While the US was keen to conclude the much-delayed Doha trade deal before the expiry of Bush administration's tenure later this year, Nath said: "We want to see their proposals on the table".

Besides Nath and Schwab, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and WTO Director General Pascal Lamy, trade ministers of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, Lesotho, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa and Switzerland attended the meeting.

With the members agreeing for the Ministerial Meeting, the highest policy-making organ of the World Trade Organisation, in the third week of March, analysts see progress in the trade talks.

Prospects of the American economy slipping into recession and other rich nations getting impacted, the US and European Union seem willing to soften stand on their demand for market for agricultural and industrial products in developing countries.

The Bush administration, analysts feel, is also keen on wrapping up the multilateral trade deal and using it as a political weapon against the Democrats.

Nath, however, said India would "not compromise on the issue of livelihood concern".

The Doha Round, which was to be completed by the beginning of 2005, has missed many deadlines for want of consensus on the contentious issues of agricultural subsidies and industrial tariffs.

While the US and the Euro zones are facing the slowdown, Asia - led by China and India - hold promise of reviving the world economy. The US with a whopping external engagement of 3.5 trillion dollars would be keen on using the growing Asian economies as a tonic for its own economy.

However, the economic situation in developed countries would give an opportunity to developing countries, led by India, Brazil and South Africa, to get the best possible deal.

America faced a similar situation in 2001 immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York.

Keen on getting world sympathy, it yielded fairly well on the issue of Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), when an agreement was struck in Doha in 2001. The US softened its stand on compulsory licensing for the life-saving drugs enabling countries like India and Brazil to allow pharmaceutical firms to break the patents in case of emergency situations.