Member countries are not yet close to resolving their differences and concluding the over-a-decade-long Doha Round negotiations for a global trade deal, a top World Trade Organisation (WTO) official has said.

Efforts to close the gap are progressing only ‘bit-by-bit’, the WTO Deputy Director-General, Dr Harsha V. Singh, told reporters on Wednesday on the sidelines of a FICCI event. He said a pick up in the global economy could be conducive for further progress in ‘larger bits’.

Asked about a new deadline for the conclusion of the Round, Dr Singh said there would be a Ministerial meeting next year to review the progress. As agreed by member countries, there would be a Ministerial meeting every two years, which means the next one would be in 2015, he added.

Earlier, Dr Singh said “hopefully after the forthcoming US elections, the member countries would be able to address several issues more satisfactorily”. He also cautioned that increasing protectionist measures by countries, as shown by a recent WTO report, were affecting world trade.

On the stalemate, Dr Singh said the US had been insisting that economies such as China and India that have recorded huge growth should be ready to shoulder larger obligations (opening their markets).

However, China and India felt that though they had been growing, there was still a large share of population that was poor and needed a safety net. Therefore, these countries felt it was not fair to ask them to take additional responsibilities at this point, he said.

The US and the European Union have been asking emerging market economies to commit to greater reduction in tariffs of industrial products, while developing countries want the rich nations to drastically reduce their ‘trade distorting’ agricultural subsidies.

Noting that many countries were entering into free trade agreements, Dr Singh said they would soon realise the need for harmonisation of standards and find that a multilateral agreement under WTO was best suited for them.

arun.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 18, 2012)
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