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BW Businessworld

Daily Edit: Seek Balance At WTO

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Time is running out for the World Trade Organisation’s Bali agreement. The Bali meet had revived the relevance of the multilateral organisation, but the standoff between India and the developed world has again put a question mark over WTO’s abilities to manage conflicting interests.

India has taken the position that it will go ahead with its food security programme with or without WTO. Under the WTO agreement, no country can spent more than 10 per cent of the value of its agricultural produce on subsidies. Now India has said that unless this is allowed, it will not accept the Trade facilitation Agreement. The DNA of WTO is such that is seems to be unable to understand the imperatives of developing countries. It was created by a club of rich countries but floundered when poor countries began to influence the agenda. When current Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was Commerce Minister, he led the Indian delegation to WTO Ministerial at Cancun a decade ago. Jaitley had taken a tough stance on market access for Indian agriculture sector. This along with other developing countries’ grievances led to a failure of the ministerial. It marked the beginning of WTO’s decline.

WTO is at a similar point in history. It has to understand the needs of India and developing while ensuring further progress on trade facilitation. India on the other hand will have to tread a fine line without being obstructionist. India will have more to gain by reduced red tape in global trade. India’s food security programme is flawed and inefficient. It would be counter productive for India to give up an efficient trade regime for a leaking food programme.


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