WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and India may be able to find a way to revive World Trade Organization talks that collapsed last year after the two nations could not find common ground, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said on Wednesday.
“India and the United States may be uniquely positioned to try to breathe new life into the Doha development round” of WTO talks, Kirk told a business conference before meeting Anand Sharma, his counterpart from India.
The Obama administration has given few details about how it plans to proceed on Doha. Kirk has repeatedly said that better-off developing nations like India need to provide more market access for the talks to advance.
Kirk said he and Sharma, both new to their positions, “really hit it off” when they met last week for the first time at a trade meeting in Bali.
“He is an incredibly gifted young man,” he told a U.S.-India business conference, drawing laughs for his quips about the two trade ministers tippling single-malt scotch.
“I hope it’s not a sin in India,” Kirk added.
Kirk, the former mayor of Dallas, Texas, is known for his affable style and the importance he puts on the value of interpersonal relationships to solve trade issues.
A senior business leader from India told the meeting that the two trade chiefs share a common trait.
“Neither of you are trade wonks,” said Tarun Das, chief mentor of Confederation of Indian Industry, a lobby group.
World trade leaders said they were optimistic about the talks resuming after Sharma and Kirk met last week.
Sharma told Reuters earlier this week that “the impasse has been broken” in the talks.
Kirk acknowledged boosting trade is “a very tough sell” domestically when people are losing jobs, but said the recession provides a chance to demonstrate the negative impacts of declining trade and “make a more critical case for the benefits and value of a free, open rules-based trading system.
“We’ve got to stop talking about trade as on the second page of the agenda, and put it on the first page of the agenda, along with the stimulus, education and healthcare,” he said.