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US wants India to decrease tariffs on industrial goods

D Ravi Kanth  |  Geneva 

Commerce ministry officials are examining a demand made by the US that India should agree to steep tariff cuts on a range of industrial products that cover about 60 per cent of the latter’s overall imports.

India has informed select trade envoys during a closed-door meeting that it is studying the American “queries” on whether New Delhi is prepared to reduce tariffs on items of interest to Washington.

It is not clear whether Commerce Minister Anand Sharma had actually discussed the specific demands made by Washington in the market access for industrial and agriculture products during his meeting with US Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk early this week, trade envoys said.

Brazil has informed that it cannot accept Washington’s requests made during a bilateral meeting in Paris last month.

Both Brazil and India held separate bilateral meetings with the US as part of a move to advance the stalled Doha trade negotiations.

Though there was enhanced engagement at the bilateral meeting with the US, Brazil said it did not know the core demands of the US.

Brazilian envoy Roberto Azevedo said Brasilia also presented some requests to its American counterpart but the reply was negative, maintaining that they were not provided with any reasons.

He said there was only a glimmer of hope, suggesting that Brazil would not disengage. He also suggested there was a clear disconnect between political statements and the actual negotiations, trade envoys said.

Frustrated with the lack of progress during the talks between key members last week, WTO chief Pascal Lamy has called for “text-base” negotiations from next month onwards. Members will “now need to engage in text-based negotiations to bridge gaps, particularly on agriculture and non-agriculture market access, which still remain key to these negotiations, but also on services and on the rest of the topics on our agenda,” he told the informal trade negotiations committee.

The WTO chief said the November meeting of senior officials from the Group of 14 countries “needs to be carefully prepared, so that it results in progress which the ministerial meeting could take stock of,” emphasising that “it has to be a negotiating session, not a discussion session, and we have to prepare for it collectively!”

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First Published: Thu, October 29 2009. 00:56 IST