Anand Sharma kicks off process to revive global trade talks


New Delhi : Moves to restart the stalled global trade talks have begun with a series of meetings in Bali on the sidelines of a conference among 19 farm products exporting countries, where Commerce Minister Anand Sharma is representing India.

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Sharma had one round of talks with World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy Sunday and informally met with US Trade Representative Ron Kirk over dinner at the luxury beach resort of Nusa Dua on Bali island, officials here said.

The Indian minister and his US counterpart, both of whom are new in their respective portfolios, were slated to hold bilateral talks later Monday on the margins of the Cairns Group meeting, the officials added.

India and the US are invitees to the talks.

The Cairns Group comprises Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay

“India and the US of course are critical to trying to bring about a conclusion to this round,” Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean, who is chairing the meeting, told reporters Sunday at the opening of the group’s three-day meeting.

“Everybody knows US and India are the most important players in terms of setting the tone and providing how far the agreement can go. The new administrations on both sides are providing a fresh perspective in how they see this global issue can be solved.”

The global trade talks had once again collapsed last year because of serious differences between India and the US over tariffs, farm subsidies and market access. Now with the world reeling under slowdown, there is a new push to revive the trade talks.

Ahead of his departure for Indonesia, Sharma had said he hoped to re-start the process for the successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round and looked forward to his meeting with other trade ministers, especially Kirk.

He had a telephone conversation with Kirk June 1, soon after taking over as commerce minister, during which they agreed to work closely to revive the stalled process.

“I think Ambassador Kirk will enjoy the opportunity to discuss multilateral and bilateral trade issues with his Indian counterpart,” said Carol Guthrie, the spokesperson for the US Trade Representative, ahead of their meeting.