MARRAKECH, Morocco — India agreed to a U.S. request Wednesday to resume bilateral market access talks aimed at lowering India’s barriers against textiles and apparel imports.
After a 40-minute meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, India’s Minister of Commerce Pranab Mukherjee said, “The United States has asked for the resumption of talks. Let us see what they say.
“We are willing to look at their demands,” the Indian official said, but stressed that India wants more access to the U.S. market.
Trade ministers from 121 countries are meeting here to sign off on the GATT Uruguay Round treaty, calling for liberalization of international trade in a number of sectors. The treaty will still require ratification by the individual nations.
In the talks with India, trade sources said, the U.S. turned on the heat, threatening to send back to India shipments to the U.S. that exceed its current quota.
India and Pakistan are the only two nations in the Uruguay Round that have failed to upgrade their market access offers despite repeated calls by the U.S. since Dec. 15. The U.S. wants these nations to lower the high import duties to a level that would enable U.S. exporters to penetrate the Indian and Pakistani markets.
The U.S. is especially keen to improve access for fibers, yarns and specialty fabrics.
The new round of talks, which will pick up where the stalled Geneva negotiations left off a few weeks ago, are expected to begin soon in New Delhi.
The U.S. is also determined to extract a commitment from Pakistan for a similar round of discussions after April 15, a senior U.S. official said.
In other bilateral contacts here Wednesday, Kantor met with the Chinese delegation headed by Gu Yongjiang, and reiterated the U.S. position that China has to meet all obligations and responsibilities before it could become a member of the new World Trade Organization, which will become the successor organization to GATT.
An official of the U.S. delegation said Mr. Kantor stressed that the U.S. wants to see China enter the WTO fully in line with principles of the WTO and GATT.
However, U.S. officials stressed there are still real substantial issues that need to be resolved, including more openness on the part of China’s trading practices.
Kantor also conveyed concerns to the Chinese about the problem of piracy of intellectual property. He did not did not discuss China’s Most-Favored-Nation trade status for its exports to the U.S.
The Most-Favored-Nation status will soon be up for renewal, and has been heatedly debated in Washington.