The US demand for enhanced access to Chinese, Indian and Brazilian markets, while at the same time stepping up protective trade measures, has further mired the already stalled Doha trade negotiations, trade diplomats said.
The US "can't achieve gains without making further concessions," Indian Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar told the Washington Trade Daily, an influential American trade publication, in an exclusive interview last week.
"The US is the one which taught this lesson to everybody at the WTO that there is no free ride or free lunch... So, if you want a concession, you have to pay for it," he said, suggesting that the demands made by the US on agriculture and industrial goods are unreasonable and inconsistent with the Doha mandate.
"The US 'slash-and-burn-all-NAMA [non-agricultural market access]-tariff-lines-to-zero' approach will not work because the negotiating mandate -- going back to 2001 -- is premised on a voluntary" framework," Khullar said.
The US had slapped safeguard duty on Chinese tyres last year, a step that forced China to raise a trade dispute at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
More recently, the US Congress enacted an Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, which hiked the visa fees for short-term Indian IT services providers.
In addition, the US is believed to be considering several more restrictive trade measures.
However, in sharp contrast to its increasingly protectionist attitude, the US administration has adopted an aggressive stance in the Doha trade negotiations to pry open markets in India, China, and Brazil for its agriculture products, industrial goods and services.
"Clearly, there is disconnect between the US' restrictive measures against competitive imports on the one hand and its aggressive and inconsistent demands for market opening in other countries in the Doha negotiations," said an Asian trade envoy, who preferred anonymity.
As WTO members return from their summer recess to commence work on the stalled Doha Development Agenda negotiations, the prospects for an early breakthrough seem bleak, largely due to the position adopted by the US, which is holding bilateral negotiations with China, India and Brazil.
The US, for example, wants enhanced market access for its subsidised farm products like soya, corn, cotton and rice in China and India, even though the Doha mandate stipulates a formula-based tariff reduction framework to ensure that the gains accrue to all WTO members and not exclusively to any one member.
Though developing countries are allowed to decide on a voluntary basis if they want to bring tariffs on industrial products to zero, the US wants the three leading developing countries -- China, India, and Brazil -- to eliminate tariffs on a range of chemicals, industrial engineering goods and electrical and electronics items.
US Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk has repeatedly maintained that unless the three "advanced developing countries (China, India, and Brazil)" offer market access in tune with their sustained growth since 2001, the Doha Round cannot be concluded.
He had maintained that the US paid a heavy price by agreeing to lower its farm subsidies, emphasising that it is for the emerging countries to respond.
The Doha Round is premised on a "developmental" framework requiring the rich countries to provide liberal market access to developing countries by slashing their agricultural tariffs and egregious farm subsidies, reducing industrial tariffs on products of importance to developing countries and removing barriers on trade in services.
However, with the Doha negotiations entering the ninth year soon, developing countries are increasingly realising that the promised benefits of the talks will never accrue because of the "greedy" demands of the US, an African diplomat said.