Home India News Anand Sharma, Mandelson agree on need to resume WTO talks

Anand Sharma, Mandelson agree on need to resume WTO talks

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and his British counterpart Lord Peter Mandelson have agreed on the need for an early resumption of stalled global trade talks, Indian sources said Tuesday.

Sharma, who spent a day in London Monday, met with Business Secretary Mandelson for their first meeting since taking over the new portfolio in last month’s cabinet reshuffle in New Delhi.

Indian sources said the two ministers had “very constructive talks” and agreed on the need to resume the Doha Development Round of talks that are based at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva.

“With all the work already done on Doha, they talked about the need to finish the job,” the sources told IANS.

“The idea is that what is on the table should be taken up and taken forward. The job should be completed,” they added.

Sharma has signalled India’s readiness to return to the negotiating table after talks collapsed last year as the US refused to lower its huge farm subsidies and India stuck to proposals designed to safeguard the livelihoods of its poorest farmers.

India, which has led the large number of developing countries at the WTO, highlighted what are called Special Safeguard Mechanisms (SSMs) and Special Products (SPs) that it says can protect farmers from trade liberalisation.

SSMs are designed to protect farmers in developing countries from sudden and unforeseen rises in imports of agricultural commodities, but the US and India disagree on the exact level of such surges.

SPs are lists of agricultural products that are seen as important for food security and rural development, and every country is allowed to draw up individual lists of such products on which they can maintain high tariffs.

Sharma, during visits to Washington last week and London, said negotiators should start with the two draft document that are on the table – one on agriculture and the other on manufacturing.

Mandelson, who was the European Trade Commissioner when the WTO talks collapsed last year, said earlier this month he hoped the election of new governments in India and the US would help break the logjam in trade talks.

“I would hope that stronger Indian position would and could be matched by a comparably stronger position and approach taken up by the United States,” Mandelson said.

Sharma and Mandelson will meet again in Paris Thursday at a ministerial meeting of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which will address key policy responses to restore financial stability and long-term growth in the backdrop of the current financial and economic crisis.

India is not a member of the OECD but has been invited to the meeting along with key non-members Brazil, Chile, China, Estonia, Indonesia, Israel, Russia, Slovenia and South Africa.