A cautious optimism was in the air, when the dormant Doha Development Round (DDR), was re-energised and sprang back to the Conference table of 35 trade ministers, who met at New Delhi in early September 09 after a long gap of 14 months to deliberate on "Re-energising Doha: A Commitment to Development". The last meet of trade ministers in July 2008 disappointed everybody when no substantive measures could be agreed to and both the developed and the developing countries parted ways, holding out to their own respective stands. Now, India has taken the lead and invited trade ministers for taking DDR forward. The discussion paper circulated by India on the occasion amply described its intention when it said, "It is now time to draw these separate threads together, weaving them into a response of solidarity to move the multilateral process forward. This is what the Delhi meeting attempts to achieve." Gerlad Keddy, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Canada, amplified by saying, "This is a critical crossroad at the WTO. This meeting may not discuss the fine details on how we move forward but certainly it captures the willingness on behalf of all the nations, particularly the G-20."


The Breakthrough


The much-awaited news of breakthrough, after two days of intense deliberations, came when Anand Sharma, Commerce Minister declared, "We have reached an agreement to intensify negotiations. There has been a breakthrough. The impasse in restoring the negotiations has been broken. The ministers have agreed to review the progress made by officials and to do all that is possible to adhere (to) the timeline of completing the Doha Round by 2010."


In a candid acknowledgement, the end-of-summit summary released by Sharma spoke of Minister acknowledged that the unambiguous political signals emanating from earlier meetings had not been translated into action in Geneva. They were conscious that mere re-affirmation of commitment was not enough unless this was converted into effective instructions to negotiators to re-engage, with a view to concluding the Round successfully within 2010. Pascal Lamy, Director General, WTO acknowledged later in a meeting organized by Confederation of Indian Industry To be very frank, we have not had an active week of negotiations since July 2008. What we got from these meetings is that it is the time to go for re-engagement. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh applauded the global trade ministers for the breakthrough, saying This will uplift the animal spirit of economic agents all over the world.


To my mind, the Delhi Summit has served the purpose it intended. It was decided that the trade ministers would meet at Geneva within a fortnight to discuss the points of contention as Pascal Lamy puts it.


Whereto?


But what is perhaps even more important is: what it will lead to?


Though the Delhi meet had a limited number of invitees, the delegates did represent the interests of around 100 WTO members, who frankly aired their views on restarting the Doha negotiations and were positive on their immediate resumption so as to make adherence to the deadline of 2010 possible. There is a whole gamut of questions that would need to be tackled. Even the dimensions of the problems have increased manifold and so have the number of members of WTO.


According to Pascal Lamy, There remain tough nuts to crack in these negotiations and we should not under-estimate this. The Doha Round talks are more complex than the previous Uruguay Round as topics have increased threefold while the number of members has increased five times.


Some of very important participants in Delhi Summit were interviewed and in the course of their interaction, each of them pointed out his perspective, which was not necessarily on the same page with those of others.


While acknowledging An extraordinary amount of good work has gone into this round to bring us to this point, Ron Kirk, US Trade Representative, representing his country at Delhi Summit explained the complex nature of problems that are inevitable in the success of Doha Round. He said Understanding the Doha Round is a horribly complex process where you are trying to harmonise interests of more than 140 countries, all with different interests. These countries have different political dynamics as well, but if we are committed to the goal, we should be open to exploring any avenues that will get us there. On the question of way out of this impasse, he said, We believe that it is imperative to look at other alternatives inclusive of continuing our multilateral engagements, specifically the sustained bilateral acts of negotiations that will bring clarity. We think it is necessary to so that all the parties can have a clear picture of what to gain from the Doha Round. I think that was amplified somewhat here today by reservations of some nations that been reluctant to talk.