Reforming WTO on the focus


Ministry of Commerce and Industry is in talks with the various countries associated with World Trade Organization (WTO) to work out the way forward for reforming the organization. This initiative has been taken in view of the stress that is evident on multilateral trading system leading to surging of a number of fresh trade-restrictive measures, which affect global trade and economic growth.

Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce and Industry is of opinion that WTO needs to undergo the reform process to improve further. “The WTO has to change, and change for the better. We are preparing an agenda that does not exclude any country in the process of making the WTO better,” the minister said at a meeting recently.

The minister claimed he has personally met 150 trade ministers to move a reformed WTO agenda forward and will keep pushing for resolution of long-pending issues such as farm subsidies and food security at the WTO but would also be open to new issues being addressed.

India and a number of other developing countries are pushing for a permanent solution to the problem of food procurement subsidies to ensure that members don’t get penalized in cases where subsidies over-shoot the existing caps. These countries have been demanding that either the caps on these subsidies be removed or the method for calculating the subsidies be changed and linked to the present market prices.

Some developed countries have since long been making a case for inclusion of issues such as e-commerce, investments and gender in the multilateral agenda but India has so far been opposing these attempts. India has also not been part of groups that have been formed to discuss these issues. Even the appointment of appellate body in the WTO dispute resolution mechanism is blocked, which has potential to weaken ­­one of the central pillars of the WTO. Industry is also grappling with the sort of complementary domestic policies and global trade governance rules that would be necessary to exploit the potential benefits from technology and applications.

“I am getting a positive response from all concerned, including the Director General of WTO, in our endeavour to take all counties on-board,” Mr. Prabhu said, adding further that the expansion of global trade hinges on rules and processes determined by the WTO and unless global trade expands, national economies will not benefit. It is important that all substantive issues that have been agreed to at the Doha and other trade rounds, as well as new issues that have cropped up, pertaining to the various countries’ interests and resolutions are addressed in a time-bound manner.

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