Warning that a failure to conclude the Doha round of global trade talks by the end of this year would be highly detrimental for both developed and developing countries, renowned global trade economist Jagdish Bhagwati has warned, while putting the onus firmly on the world's most dominant economy, the United States.
Bhagwati (77), a professor at Columbia University with several distinctions, was speaking at a seminar on the World Trade Organisation organised by trade body FICCI in New Delhi which was packed with diplomats, academicians, and representatives of NGOs. But strangely, Indian officials from the finance, commerce, or industry ministries were hardly seen.
Bhagwati warned that delay in concluding the Doha talks would hurt the WTO. ''Ultimately the issue is to find a way to get US President Barack Obama to move,'' he said.
The Doha talks under the aegis of the WTO started in the Qatar capital in 2001, aimed at achieving a global trade deal, but a breakthrough has yet to emerge because of major differences between developing economies and developed ones.
The US is seen as being particularly intransigent and obstructive in its approach. Developed countries refused to reduce trade distorting subsidies that would allow poorer countries to export more, even as they press the developing nations to lower barriers on import of goods and services.
``Unless the US moves effectively ... a series of bilateral trade deals would dominate global trade, giving more authority to rich countries, resulting in discrimination and self-perpetuating distortions,'' said Bhagwati. ''Hegemonic powers like the Americans and Europeans would establish trade deals with smaller powers and would dominate trade in their own way, which is not possible in a multilateral system.''
Developing markets would be hit hardest if the WTO loses credibility as an institution that monitors development of trade, he said.