Top Indian and American trade officials said on Thursday that they would push for successful conclusion of world trade talks, despite disagreement over how to accomplish that goal and the short time left to do the job.
"We are approaching a critical stage in the Doha round of world trade negotiations," US trade representative Susan Schwab told the US-India Business Council. "While India and the United States may have some differences over how we get to the agreement (in the talks), it is something that we agree on."
Schwab addressed the group after hosting Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath for the third meeting of US-India Trade Policy Forum, which has set a goal of doubling bilateral trade to about $50 billion by 2008.
A driving force behind that goal is an agreement to sell US nuclear reactors and fuel to India, which still must be approved by the US Congress. However, the two countries pledged to cooperate on other bilateral trade and investment issues ranging from agriculture to protection of intellectual property rights.
India and the United States, along with the European Union and Brazil, have been the leading players in the Doha round of world trade talks, which could die unless countries reach agreement soon on key agricultural and manufacturing issues.
Schwab blamed the dire state of the talks on other countries, who she said have failed to respond adequately to a "very, very bold" US offer in October to cut agricultural tariffs and trade-distorting farm subsidies.
"We were waiting and have been waiting and waiting and waiting for others -- including the European Union and the G20 (group of developing countries led by India and Brazil) -- to meet and match our level of openness," Schwab said.
Brussels has responded to demands for deeper cuts in EU tariffs with a call for the United States to make more substantial cuts in its domestic farm subsidies.
Nath said it was important that the United States and the EU resolve their differences.
"Of course, it's very important for the two major players to converge because that sets a benchmark," Nath told reporters. "I'm hopeful that as much as India wants a conclusion of the round (and) the United States wants it, the EU wants it too."