India says Doha talks make progress

Wed Oct 20, 2010 11:52pm IST

* India sees accommodation in final lap

* Rejects preconditions, calls to reopen what is settled

By Jonathan Lynn

GENEVA, Oct 20 (Reuters) - India's trade chief added his voice on Wednesday to comments that the long-stalled Doha talks to free up world trade are again showing signs of life.

But Trade Minister Anand Sharma said India would not reopen what had been agreed, and any deal must help developing countries by making farm trade fairer -- apparently rejecting U.S. calls for a shake-up of what is on the table so far.

Sharma was speaking after a visit to assess the state of the negotiations in Geneva, where ambassadors at the World Trade Organization have been brainstorming in small groups in recent weeks to seek new areas of agreement in the deadlocked talks.

"We are very happy that there has been some progress, where in addition to processes the substance is being discussed," Sharma told a news conference.

He said he could see a shared interest in bringing the talks to a conclusion to help boost the world economy. [ID:nLDE69I1KQ]

He said there was now an expectation that leaders of the G20 would provide a clear declaration of political intent at their summit in Seoul next month about the need to reach a deal.

The talks were launched in late 2001 to free up global commerce and help poor countries prosper through trade, but have been deadlocked for over two years, largely on differences between the United States and big emerging economies like India, China and Brazil over the extent they should open up.

Sharma said the past nine years of talks had achieved a balance between agriculture and industrial goods.

That runs counter to calls from Washington for richer developing countries to do more to open up their markets for industrial goods in return for the cuts in trade-distorting farm subsidies that the United States is expected to make.

In particular, the United States wants the big emerging economies to promise now to sign up to agreements eliminating duties in certain sectors such as chemicals in addition to any general cuts in industrial tariffs they agree to.

Sharma said these sectoral deals were voluntary and countries would only decide which ones to sign up to once the WTO's 153 members had reached an outline deal on the Doha talks.

However, he hinted New Delhi would be prepared to make concessions on sectoral deals and other issues once ministers get into the final negotiations.

"In a spirit of accommodation there will be very clear and specific understandings which will happen when the end-game is announced," he said. (Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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