India, US to hold talks to bridge differences over WTO

New York, October 27:

India and the US have agreed to meet in a bid to iron out differences over achieving a global trade accord, Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said on Thursday.

The agreement was reached at a high level New York mee between US and Indian government and private sector officials, he said.

Chief executives of conglomerates who attended the talks also agreed to devise a mechanism to launch a five billion dollar fund to finance Indian infrastructure projects with “minimum” government participation, Nath said.

The bid to kickstart the so-called Doha Round of talks among the World Trade Organisation (WTO) members was a “major issue” at the meeting, he said. US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez raised the deadlocked issue at the talks while US Trade Representative Susan Schwab spoke to Nath separately.

“I said that we’d be happy to find ways of converging on our differences with the United States,” Nath said. “India is happy to engage in a dialogue and so we plan that sometime in the third week of November, we’ll have a bilateral meet to move forward on this,” he said. The “basic difference” between US and India is on agriculture, he said.

“They want agriculture market access for their subsidized products. It doesn’t work,” he said.

The Doha Round ground to a halt in July amid bitter differences, especially over the lack of concessions on agriculture products which held up negotiations on industrial goods and services.

The round of multilateral trade talks began in the Qatari capital Doha at the end of 2001, with the goal of reducing subsidies, tariffs and other barriers to commerce and raising living standards in developing countries.

But the negotiations have consistently been dogged by disputes between rich and poor nations, as well as among wealthy players such as the United States and the European Union.

The United States and India are part of the so-called Group of Six, including Australia, Brazil, the European Union and Japan, which failed to settle their trade spats in the middle of this year.