World Trade Organization members committed last year to concluding the Doha Development Round in 2010. Although senior trade officials have engaged in discussions several times during the first half of the year, the only consensus that appears to have emerged is that a conclusion this year is not feasible.
The primary impasse continues to be between the United States on one hand, and India, Brazil, and China on the other, with each side blaming the other for not being fully committed to the negotiations. India has stated that it is ready to complete a deal based on the draft texts currently on the table. However, the United States argues that current proposals require it to make cuts in agricultural subsidies and manufacturing tariffs without receiving any substantial market access concessions from India and other major emerging markets, especially in industrial goods, agriculture, and services. The United States particularly insists that Brazil, India, and China accept sectoral agreements on chemical products, electronic goods, and industrial machinery. U.S. Trade Representative Ronald Kirk also has rejected the notion that it must “prepay” additional concessions in order to engage in negotiations on industrial tariffs, services or antidumping and subsidy rules.
In March of this year, WTO members participated in a week long “stocktaking” meeting to assess the progress on Doha. Expectations for the meeting were high, as the meeting was mandated during the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh in September 2009. However, officials left the meeting largely frustrated by the lack of progress, abandoning hopes for a 2010 conclusion. WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy stated in his March 26, 2010 remarks to the Trade Negotiations Committee that the “stocktaking” week resulted in a “clear catalogue of gaps” but what was less clear was the size of the gaps. He noted that the gaps were clear in the reports on agriculture and trade facilitation, but less clear in areas such as non-agricultural market access (“NAMA”) and fishery subsidies. He further noted that where the gaps were clear, political decisions needed to be made and where the gaps were less defined, more technical work needed to be done before a political consensus could be achieved. Lamy stated that delegations agreed upon the following principles:
- The multilateral nature of the negotiations should not be diminished. However, other avenues for making progress should not be discouraged.
- There is general agreement among the membership to build on what is already on the table.
- The development dimension remains central to the outcome of the Round.
Lamy further noted that the process of the negotiations would be a “cocktail” of the following approaches:
- Chair-led discussions within the negotiating groups.
- Meetings led by Lamy to ensure that the negotiations are transparent and inclusive.
- Small groups and bilateral meetings.
Senior officials from the United States, Brazil, China, and India met in Paris on April 27-28 for an initial round of meetings. No consensus was achieved, however, and several countries complained at being excluded from the discussions. On May 27, 2010, trade ministers and senior officials from 20 countries and the European Union met on the sidelines of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s ministerial meeting in Paris, and trade ministers from the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (“APEC”) forum engaged in informal discussions again on June 6, 2010 in Sapporo, Japan. Lamy noted in his remarks to the Trade Negotiations Committee on June 11, 2010 that work was underway in all of the negotiating groups, under the “cocktail” method agreed by members in March. Despite the differences between India and the United States, the two countries issued a Joint Statement on June 4, 2010 following the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, calling for a balanced and ambitious conclusion to the Doha Development Round. A similar commitment was expressed in the Framework for Cooperation on Trade and Investment signed on March 17, 2010.
U.S. and India sign the Framework for Cooperation on Trade and Investment
USTR Kirk and India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma signed a “Framework for Cooperation on Trade and Investment” on March 17, 2010. The Framework affirmed the U.S. – India Trade Policy Forum as the primary bilateral mechanism to pursue shared trade and investment objectives of India and the United States. The Trade Policy Forum is co-chaired by the U.S. Trade Representative and India’s Minister of Commerce, while the Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and India’s Secretary of Commerce serve as deputy chairs overseeing the work of the Trade Policy Forum’s Focus Groups on Agriculture, Innovation and Creativity, Investment, Services, and Tariff and Non-Tariff Barriers.
Specifically, India and the United States agreed to use the Trade Policy Forum to achieve the following goals:
- Increase opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises in India and the United States to expand ties, enhance participation in global value-chains, and export to and invest in each other’s economies.
- Promote inclusive economic growth that includes the empowerment of women and disadvantaged groups, and the observance of labor rights.
- Create opportunities for private sector cooperation in the development and deployment of clean energy and environmental technologies and services.
- Improve understanding on each country’s approaches to government procurement.
- Engage with the respective private sectors of each country on a regular basis and to accomplish the objectives set forth by the U.S.-India Private Sector Advisory Group and CEO Forum.
- Accomplish a balanced and ambitious outcome in the Doha Development Round.
Ron Kirk and Anand Sharma also announced on March 17 the launch of an initiative to integrate U.S. and Indian small and medium-sized businesses into the global supply chain, directly in support of President Obama’s National Export Initiative and Prime Minister Singh’s budget objectives.
Kavita Mohan is an attorney based in Washington D.C. She is a co-editor of India Law News and can be contacted at email@example.com.
by Kavita Mohan