Senior trade officials are meeting in Geneva the week of September 14, 2009 following a meeting of 35 WTO member countries in New Delhi on September 3 and 4, 2009. The September 3 and 4 meetings demonstrated a willingness of member countries to re-engage in the negotiations that have been at a relative standstill for more than one year and to re-affirm their commitment to a 2010 conclusion to the Doha Round. However, a positive conclusion to the Doha Round would require the key players, and, among them, especially India, China, and the United States, to bridge significant differences. India has emerged as a leader in the Doha Round, and China’s alignment with India during the July 2008 talks as well as during the September 3 and 4 discussions demonstrates an important and possibly formidable alliance between the two countries.
India is a leading voice in the Doha Round negotiations. Some have argued that voice led to the July 2008 stalemate, when then-Commerce Minister Kamal Nath declared that he would not risk the livelihoods of millions of farmers. Although there were a host of reasons for the ultimate failure of the Doha Round in July 2008 (see "New Focus Of International Business: Asia, The Centre Stage – The Future Of International Trade" for an insightful perspective on the reasons for the breakdown), the final stand-off in July 2008 was triggered by disagreements – primarily among the United States, India, and China – regarding the special safeguard mechanism threshold that would allow developing countries to impose a tariff on imports of heavily subsidized agricultural products from the developed world. China had remained on the sidelines of the discussion until the very last moment, when it sided with India against the United States.
India again has signaled its desire to take a leadership role, this time in resurrecting the Doha Round by hosting the September 3 and 4 discussions. China expressed its full support for the meetings and was an active participant in the discussions. China’s willingness to follow India’s lead during the July 2008 negotiations as well as during the recent meetings in New Delhi is not surprising, even though China’s economic heft is greater than India’s. India was one of the original contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947 and was a founding member of the WTO in 1995. It is a savvy negotiator and frequent complainant in WTO disputes. China’s more recent entry into the WTO makes it perhaps more tentative in the multilateral forum, at least until recently. China has been a complainant in only six disputes since its accession, three of which have been filed in just the past 6 months
The position taken by China in the Doha Round indicates its recognition that it may have more to gain by aligning itself with India than the United States. The relationship between the two “Asian giants” historically has been marked with political disputes and economic rivalry. However, since 2005, there have been frequent exchanges of high-level visits and intensified bilateral meetings, including a visit by India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in early 2008 that culminated in both sides signing "A Shared Vision for the 21st Century of China and India."
China and India have shared challenges on the trade front. The two countries combined account for approximately 35 percent of the world’s population and they each need to feed populations of over a billion people. The majority population of both countries is rural. Thus, they both have an interest in protecting their poor farmers from heavily subsidized agricultural imports. India also presents a huge opportunity for China. Trade between the two countries has been growing by more than 30 percent each year. 70 percent of India’s population is under the age of 35, which makes it an attractive market for Chinese consumer goods. Indeed, during the 2008-2009 fiscal year, China emerged as India’s largest trading partner, a position previously held by the United States.
The meeting in New Delhi was important because it was the first such meeting since July 2008, with ministers from practically all major blocs in attendance, including the G-10, G-33, G-20, NAMA 11, Least Developed Countries, Small and Vulnerable Economies, African Group, Cotton 4 and others. However, despite claims from New Delhi of a breakthrough in the negotiations and by other countries that the negotiations were in the “endgame,” critics have noted that there were no actual developments during the September 3 and 4 meetings. India’s Minister Sharma acknowledged in his opening remarks that “even the unequivocal expression of political resolve has not yet been translated into action.”
Not much changed at the end of the two day discussions, other than a commitment by participants to continue talks the week of September 14. Statements issued by key players also highlighted important differences, including on how the talks should progress. Minister Chen stated on September 4 that China would continue to play a constructive role in working for an early conclusion of Doha, but that the focus should be on multilateral talks rather than bilateral talks as the core channel of the negotiations. This position is in direct contradiction to USTR Kirk’s statement on September 4 that bilateral talks are the best way to continue hard-line negotiations.
An alliance between India and China may mean that a successful conclusion to the Doha Round will require greater compromise by the United States. However, although USTR Kirk has not ruled out making further concessions on agricultural subsidies, a key issue for India and China, critics say there is little indication that the United States will change its approach in the negotiations.
Trade also is likely to be on the backburner while the Obama administration focuses on domestic priorities, particularly health care. President Obama is expected to give a speech regarding his position on trade, but critics say that such a speech on trade likely will focus on the importance of trade for economic growth in general terms, rather than a detailed statement on the framework for trade policy.
The discussions in Geneva this week may shed some light on whether a conclusion to the Doha Round by 2010 is a realistic goal.
印度已经逐渐成为多哈会谈中的领导声音。一些专家提出这一声音促成2008年7月的公开声明，当时的印度商务部长卡迈尔•纳斯声明他不会拿百万农民的生计冒险。虽然很多原因导致2008年7月小型部长级会议会谈破裂（参见New Focus of International Business: Asia, the Center Stage – The Future of International Trade 对会谈失败的深入分析），最主要的原因是因为美国、印度和中国在从哪一零界点开始允许发展中国家向享受高额补助的国外农产品征收关税这一特殊保障机制上存在严重分歧。
新德里会谈非常重要，因为这是2009年7月以来第一次部长级会议，包括G-10、G20、 G-33、 NAMA 11、最不发达国家、弱小经济体、非洲国家联盟和棉花四国在内的主要贸易区域的部长都出席了这一会议。但是，虽然新德里声称实现了重大突破、其他国家声明谈判进入最后阶段，批评者指出9月3日和4日举行的小型部长级会议并未带来实质性突破。印度部长阿南德•沙玛在开幕词中也承认“明确的政治决心还未转化成行动”。