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India at last mile of Doha round: Kamal Nath

"We are closer than ever before in closing the (Doha) round. I think we are in the last mile and if we can win it we are there," he said.
IANS | By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON OCT 30, 2007 12:12 PM IST

India is fast nearing a conclusion in the Doha round of global trade talks, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said on Tuesday.

"We are closer than ever before in closing the (Doha) round. I think we are in the last mile and if we can win it we are there," Kamal Nath said at the 10th Fortune Global Forum organised in India.

The global trade talks under the aegis of the WTO were launched in Doha, Qatar in 2001 with an aim to lower trade barriers, boost the global economy and help poor countries develop fast.

The negotiations have stalled due to sharp and complicated differences among the multilateral organisation's rich, developing and poor countries on issues ranging from agriculture subsidies to access to industrial goods.

"At the same time, we have to address sensitivities. If America has its sensitivities relating to agriculture, so do African nations that have only one crop," he added.

Emphasising that India has 650 million people engaged in agriculture and 300 million who live by less than one dollar a day, the minister told the virtual who's who of the global corporate world: "If these sensitivities are taken on board then India would not be able to exercise flexibilities as we have done in other areas."

Referring to the draft proposals that were circulated by two WTO chairs on agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) in July he said: "Things have changed in the last two months. There's much more convergence in the last two months after the draft papers were circulated."

The WTO draft proposal, which aimed at reviving the stalled talks, talked about pruning agricultural subsidies to $12.8-16.2 billion dollars from the current $48.2 billion.

"We are close to it like never before and US, I think, is taking on board India's sensitivity on agriculture."

On the issue of the some European NGOs accusing the Indian industry of flouting labour laws and human rights, particularly in the garment business, the minister said: "I condemn seriously and I am also very seriously concerned of the increasing trend of countries using these type of non-tariff barriers and inducing the NGOs to bring out false reports."

"These would put pressure on me to take retaliatory actions and if need be we may do so. We are seeing this increasingly with Europe. And the main cause of concern is these are motivated," he said.

"It's only appropriate we draw a line somewhere."

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