Published: Monday 31 July 2006

The World Trade Organization's (WTO's) mini-ministerial at Geneva on July 1, 2006, ended in a stalemate, with India pulling out of the trade talks. India's commerce minister Kamal Nath walked out of the meet a day before its scheduled conclusion.

The negotiations turned sour when EU and the US asked developing countries like India and Brazil to open up more of their market for manufactured and agricultural goods in return for reduced farm subsidies and tariffs.

Kamal Nath said he had gone to Geneva so that "Indian farmers can get something and not give something" and cited non-cooperation of developed countries as the reason for his walkout. Director general of WTO Pascal Lamy too acknowledged that the talks were in a crisis.

The US and EU's insistence on accessing the markets of developing countries had led to the failure of the Cancun WTO ministerial in 2003, although they had agreed to cut farm subsidy and import tariffs without asking for significant increase in market access at the Hong Kong ministerial in 2005.

The Geneva meet was to finalise modalities for the 'Doha Development Round' (see 'Doha delay', Down To Earth, May 31, 2006) decided at the 2001-Hong Kong meet, where for the first time industrialised nations had agreed to reduce subsidies and tariffs. The meet was also important since by 2007, the US president will lose the fast track authority to take trade decisions without the Congress's approval.

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