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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.

          35个世贸组织成员于9月3和4日在印度首都新德里举行小型部长级会议,随即负责贸易的高级官员又将于本周在日内瓦举行会谈。新德里会议显示成员国愿意重新参与在过去一年多里停滞不前的谈判,同时它们再次重申在2010年结束多哈会谈的决心。但是,成功结束多哈会谈要求印度、中国、美国等主要成员国缩小各自立场间的显著差距。印度已经逐渐成为多哈会谈的领袖,中国在2008年7月和本月召开的新德里会议上与印度保持一致立场,充分显示两国已经形成重要、乃至威慑性联盟。

        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。

        印度再次表示愿意扮演领导者角色并主办本月前些时候召开的新德里会谈以推动多哈谈判。中国表示全力支持这一会谈并积极参与讨论。虽然中国的经济实力比印度更为雄厚,但是中国愿意在2008年7月小型部长级会议以及新德里会谈中接受印度领导却并不令人奇怪。印度是1947年签署的《关贸总协定》缔约国之一,同时也是1995年成立的世贸组织发起国之一。多年来,印度逐渐成长为精明的谈判家和充分利用世贸组织争端解决机制的申诉方。相对而言,中国加入世贸组织较晚,使得中国在多边会谈中仍扮演尝试者角色,至少最近还是。迄今为止,中国仅就六项贸易纠纷向世贸组织递交了申诉,其中三份申诉是最近六个月内递交的。

        中国在多哈回合中采取的立场显示中国意识到与印度结盟比与美国结盟更有利。回顾历史,两大“亚洲巨人”间的关系可概括为政治纠纷不断和经济竞争白热化。但是自2005年以来,双方高层互访不断、双边会谈紧锣密鼓,包括2008年初印度总理莫汉•辛格访华并与中方签署《中华人民共和国和印度共和国关于二十一世纪的共同展望》。

        在贸易领域,中国和印度面临相同挑战。两国人口占世界人口总数的百分之三十五,两国都面临解决上亿人温饱的难题。农村人口均占两国人口主体。因此,面对享受高额补助的进口品,两国都需要保护本国贫困农民。同时,印度也为中国带来很多机遇。两国贸易每年以超过百分之三十的速度增长。且印度百分之七十的人口年龄低于35岁,使得印度成为中国消费品的潜在巨大市场。在2008-2009财政年度,中国已取代美国成为印度最大的贸易伙伴。

        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”。

        在会谈即将结束之际,并没有发生很多变化,只有与会国承诺在9月14日这周继续商谈。主要国家发表的声明也显示各自立场间的差别,例如会谈如何进一步进展。中国商务部部长陈德铭于9月4日发表声明,承诺中国将继续推动多哈会谈早日结束,但同时强调多边会谈而非双边会谈应成为谈判的主要渠道。这和美国贸易谈判代表柯克9月4日的声明截然不同,柯克指出双边会谈是推动谈判的最佳渠道。

        中印联盟可能意味着成功结束多哈回合需要美国做出更多让步。但是,虽然美国贸易谈判代表柯克并未排除在农业补贴领域做出更大让步——中印关注的焦点,批评者指出还没有迹象显示美国将改变谈判立场。

        当奥巴马政府忙于国内事务,尤其是医疗改革时,贸易的重要性自然有所降低。奥巴马总统即将就其贸易立场发表演说,评论家指出这一演讲将从宏观角度强调贸易在经济增长中的重要作用,而不是详细陈述新政府的贸易政策。

        本周的日内瓦会谈将预示在2010年结束多哈会谈是否是一个切实际的目标。

(翻译:朱晶)