Kerry asks India to drop opposition to global trade reforms
NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State John Kerry, who
arrived in India on Wednesday for an official visit, has pressed New Delhi to
drop its opposition to global trade reforms, saying it was a test of the country’s
commitment to advance economic liberalisation.
Kerry made the call in a newspaper article, penned
along with US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, published hours ahead of his
arrival for talks aimed at revitalising ties that have been mired in disputes
over trade, intellectual property rights and climate change.
India has threatened to block a worldwide reform of
customs rules, saying it must be accompanied by a parallel agreement allowing
developing countries more freedom to subsidise and stockpile food grains.
The deadline for the deal that the World Trade
Organisation says could provide a trillion dollar stimulus to the global
economy is Thursday. Kerry said India stood to gain by creating a level playing
field instead of erecting trade barriers.
“In this regard, as we work with our trading partners
around the world, India must decide where it fits in the global trading system.
Its commitment to a rules-based trading order and its willingness to fulfil its
obligations will be a key indication,” he said in the article in The Economic
India and the United States have already clashed at
the WTO, with Washington saying Delhi’s 11th hour resistance could kill a deal
that could create 21 million jobs. The row adds to frustration from both sides
over the often prickly nature of what US President Barack Obama once called “a
defining partnership of the 21st century.”
“It will be hard to make a persuasive case...for a
larger economic ambition with India if India decides to part ways with the entire
WTO membership on the Bali deal,” said Alyssa Ayres, former US deputy assistant
secretary of state for South Asia.
Yet despite growing concern at WTO headquarters in
Geneva, a senior Indian trade official said on Wednesday all was not lost. “I
am sure in the course of the next almost 48 hours there will be suggestions
coming from others, and suggestions can come from us also. We will make
suggestions. We are very positive and constructive,” the official said.
The official said India was committed to trade
facilitation, but that its concerns about a lack of progress on food subsidies
must be addressed. He also said India was prepared to miss the July 31 deadline