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Ministerial round of Doha talks in March

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS

Davos : The next ministerial meeting of the Doha Round of world trade talks will take place in the third week of March, with all major players keen on concluding the round by the end of this year to boost the global economy.

“The momentum has never been as good, particularly because of the economic outlook in developed countries,” India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said Saturday after meeting his counterparts from 15 countries and regions here.

World Trade Organisation Director General Pascal Lamy chaired the meeting at a luxury hotel in this Swiss health resort, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual summit.

Kamal Nath, US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and trade ministers of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, Lesotho, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa and Switzerland attended the meeting.

“The Doha Round will be a shot in the arm for the global economy,” Kamal Narth said.

He also said that it was imperative for the Doha Round that it leads to a healthy economy.

Kamal Nath, who also held private bilateral talks with his opposite numbers from Brazil, Thailand and China, said the next ministerial meeting would be held around Easter, falling on March 23, in Geneva.

Schwab said the US was committed to ending the Doha round this year.

Ahead of Saturday’s meeting, India stressed the importance of reaching an agreement.

“It’s all about process,” Kamal Nath said before going into the meet, 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.