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WTO fails, experts push new agenda

india Updated: Jul 27, 2006 10:14 IST
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Developing countries must now draft a new development agenda with a flexible policy that does not focus on the issue of market access to push global trading system forward, experts said at a seminar in New Delhi on Tuesday.

"Impasse is neither new, nor unusual," said Abhijit Das, senior trade officer with the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), referring to the collapse of global commerce talks at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

"Developing countries, however, should not give into a bad deal in order to show results," he told the seminar organised by the Centre for Trade and Development, adding the previous Uruguay Round had also witnessed similar setbacks.

"The economic balance in negotiations is undergoing a process of shift and developed countries are not ready to accept this new reality," said Muchkund Dubey, a former foreign secretary of India and an international trade expert.

"The issue of trade distortions by developed nations has moved to the forefront and the developing countries have refused to be taken for a ride," Dubey said.

"No deal is better than a bad deal."

Biswajit Dhar, chief of WTO Cell at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, said everyone seemed to have been caught up with formulae and numbers while the bigger picture of the objectives that WTO was supposed to address were missed.

The entire exercise of disciplining subsidies had been reduced to a farce since countries such as the US were continuing to subsidise at existing levels, Dhar said.

He also pointed out that after the farm trade reform of the developed countries, the net food importing nations would not need to depend on subsidized food because they would be able to up their production and meet domestic shortfalls.

Tuesday's seminar—'The Doha Impasse: Which Way Are We Headed?'—was attended by members of academia, think tanks and the civil society. Oxfam International's Make Trade Fair Alliance co-hosted the event.

Speaking to reporters earlier, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath had said India will now pursue bilateral trade pacts with other countries as no clarity had emerged on the global trade talks that failed on Monday over the issue of farm subsidies.

"There is no clarity on the future road map. Our idea is to keep the developing countries (G-20) united and not pursue unilateral decisions," Kamal Nath said.

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