China disappointing, India 'mixed' on WTO Doha talks: US

13th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

China has been disappointing and India has been taking "one step forward, one step back" in Doha negotiations for a global free trade pact, the US envoy to the World Trade Organisation said Thursday.

Michael Punke, who is also the US deputy trade representative, warned that plans to conclude the long-stalled talks this year would be torpedoed if member states failed to step up and engage immediately in substantive negotiations.

"We were somewhat disappointed with what we heard from China when we met with them on December," Punke told reporters in Geneva.

"We had very much hoped, especially in the wake of the G20 discussions, that we (would) begin discussions on substantive negotiations. What we have heard instead is essentially what we heard before."

Punke also had a negative assessment of India's engagement, saying that New Delhi was sending "mixed signals."

"My personal assessment of India is that it's one step forward, one step back. Signals we have received from India have been very mixed," he noted.

Punke said that when he travelled to New Delhi in August, he found that "we were on a cusp of entering into ... specific types of discussion... (that were) critical for the juncture that we're at now."

However, upon his return, those "never materialised despite our efforts to engage."

The Doha Round of negotiations, which began in 2001, have foundered amid disagreements between developed and developing countries over the level of market access for industrial products as well as agriculture subsidies.

The US ambassador reiterated Washington's stance that developed nations have given more concessions that emerging economies, and that it was now up to the latter group to stump up in order for the talks to succeed.

"We are ready, willing and able to negotiate anywhere, to negotiate any issue, to negotiate with anybody -- except ourselves," said Punke.

"That last point is important because we need interlocutors across the table from us who are prepared to talk about key substantive issues that we've worked together to identify over the past couple of months," he said.

For Punke, it is now necessary to begin negotiating in earnest in order to conclude the round this year.

"The endgame is now from my perspective so it's critical that we begin to get into the meat of negotiating the real give and take of negotiations," he said.

"It's no longer going to be sufficient if we are going to be successful in 2011 to come and to repeat talking points," he added.

© 2011 AFP

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