The Financial Express, 02 March. 2003

New Delhi, March 2: With the two post-Doha mini-ministerials failing to make much progress on the agenda of negotiations charted at the fourth World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meet in Doha, experts feel that the success of the fifth ministerial in Cancun in September depends on how successful members are in keeping politics away from economic issues.

In a seminar organised by the CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economics & Environment on Saturday, former WTO deputy director-general Anwarul Hoda said it is uncertain how things will turn out in Cancun as nobody knows what twist will be given by the United States and Britain to the negotiations because of political pressures. The three main issues to be discussed in WTO will be the market access in agriculture, trade & industrial tariff and services. Mr Hoda said it is difficult for an agreement on modalities for negotiations on agriculture and industrial tariff to be firmed up before Cancun as mandated by the Doha declaration. “There are divergent views among the member states and there are indications that an agreement on modalities would not be possible before Cancun,” he said.

According to trade expert from the Jawaharlal Nehru University Manoj Pant, it is time for the government to re-focus on the sector on which it should base its negotiating strategy and coalition partners.

Dr Pant said New Delhi does not have much to gain or lose from the agreement on agriculture as it is mainly a tussle between the EU, the US and the Cairns Group. Instead of basing our strategy on agriculture, New Delhi should focus on more relevant issues, he said.

Dr Pant also said the government should also chose its coalition partners carefully and come out of the false impression that it is representing the cause of the developing countries. If on certain issues like industrial tariffs we feel that our views match with the US, we should not hesitate to team up with them, he said.

CUTS secretary general Pradeep S Mehta said to ensure that it has capable negotiators at the WTO, New Delhi should not keep transferring its civil servants.