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Indian-American in Obama team

world Updated: Mar 29, 2010 01:11 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times
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The Obama Administration has appointed a graduate from the Uttar Pradesh Agricultural University in Pantnagar as the US’s key negotiator on issues relating to agriculture.

Islam A. Siddiqui has been appointed Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the US Trade Representative and is expected to play a central role in the stalled negotiations over the Doha talks under the ambit of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

But Siddiqui’s appointment is likely to face criticism not only from Republicans, but also the ecological groups who have labelled him “Monsanto Man”, referring to his history as a man who lobbied for the agri-business industry.

The Doha Round has been contentious with differences on agriculture not being bridged between the US and countries like India and China.

In a statement before the US Senate Finance Committee in November last year, Siddiqui had said: “Based on the briefings I have received, it is my understanding that the Doha negotiations have made progress on some issues, but the larger stumbling blocks remain unresolved. If confirmed, I commit to devote my best efforts to achieve an ambitious and balanced outcome on agriculture, something that has eluded us for the last eight years.”

“It is evident that we are being asked to make significant concessions in the first two pillars of the agricultural negotiations — domestic support and export competition. Therefore, a final agreement on agriculture must provide commercially meaningful market access for US agricultural products into the markets of developed and emerging economies.”

Siddiqui’s appointment, however, may be fairly controversial. First, this was part of 15 “recess appointments” bypassing the voting process in the US Senate and that will only irk Republicans.

While announcing the appointments, US President Barack Obama said: “The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees. But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis. Most of the men and women whose appointments I am announcing today were approved by Senate committees months ago, yet still await a vote of the Senate.”

Siddiqui had also worked in the Clinton Administration.