Focus on agriculture as Kamal Nath talks to US, Europe

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS

Davos : India stressed the importance of reaching an agreement on agriculture as Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and his counterparts from 15 countries and regions including the US and Europe met Saturday to revive the stalled Doha Round of world trade talks.

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Meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual summit, Kamal Nath, US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and others discussed ways to advance talks over lunch at a luxury hotel in this Swiss health resort.

Representatives of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, Lesotho, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa and Switzerland also participated in the meeting chaired by World Trade Organisation Director General Pascal Lamy.

“It’s all about process,” said Kamal Nath, referring to a demand by India and other emerging economies to negotiate existing texts on agriculture and manufacturing at the WTO headquarters in Geneva.

There has been no progress on the main Indian demand in the agricultural negotiations – that the US, Europe and other rich countries drastically cut their agricultural subsidies, which massively disadvantage exports from India and other developing countries.

“It is agriculture, agriculture, agriculture,” said Ujal Singh Bhatia, India’s ambassador to the WTO.

“Agriculture and manufacturing must progress side by side. And then we can talk about services,” Bhatia told IANS here.