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Chancellor Brown for restarting Doha round

Chancellor Gordon Brown calls for ?bold and concerted action? to restart the Doha round of WTO talks, reports Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2006 20:58 IST
Vijay Dutt

Chancellor Gordon Brown has called for “bold and concerted action” to restart the Doha round of WTO talks. “Today I am urging progressive global business leaders and government to join forces with other governments to push for a new breakthrough," he wrote in The Times recently. "Globalisation desperately needs champions, statesmen and business leaders speaking together, to challenge the current descent into protectionism."

Brown has urged India, Brazil, Europe and the United States to break the deadlock by making far greater concessions than they have done so far over farm subsidies, industrial tariffs and access to service markets. He has also called for a new global alliance of governments, business leaders and public figures to fight the reactionary “Luddites” opposed to globalisation and break the “dangerous global log jam” that is threatening world trade.

He is apparently concerned that the opponents of globalisation are not just shouting the loudest, but they are now endangering world prosperity with their success in pushing up barriers to free trade. The Doha round of world trade talks collapsed in rancour last July, and many countries, particularly in Europe and Latin America, have started to pursue populist protectionist policies. Other countries are considering doing bilateral deals among themselves instead of participating in a global deal that includes most countries.

The talks stalled when developing countries accused the developed world of not doing enough to curb farm subsidies, while developed countries accused developing ones of not doing enough to open their markets to developed world products. Brown has thus called for restarting trade talks, which has been backed by the leaders of a dozen of the world’s top companies, including BP, Wal-Mart, Arun Sarin of Vodafone, GlaxoSmithKline and Goldman Sachs, all of whom insist that “political leadership is now essential”.

Brown fears there is limited opportunity for progress of the talks, since any deal must be agreed to before the expiry of the fast-track negotiating authority granted to the United States government by Congress till July next year. Afterwards, it could become politically almost impossible for the United States to participate in any significant talks for many years.

It is possible that Brown will bring up the issue strongly when he visits India. He had announced at the Labour Friends of India reception at Manchester during the party’s annual meet that he would be going to India shortly. But presently Alistair Darling, the Trade and Industry Secretary, is slated to go to Brazil and India to urge them to help progress by reducing tariffs and opening up their markets.

Brown has also called for the setting up of a new “trade exchange”, bringing together leading figures from rich and poor countries to “expose not only the dangers of rolling backwards into unilateralism and bilateralism... but how much more the world can gain, and especially the poorest, by a globalisation that we can push forward together.”

First Published: Nov 06, 2006 20:34 IST