The upcoming tenth ministerial conference of WTO at Nairobi poses India yet another occasion to clarify its position and stand firm on the convictions. Though there are all the chances of continuation of the tussle between developed and developing countries regarding a series of issues, it is high time to find an amicable and sustainable solution to these.
Public food stocking, subsidies on food, fuel and fertilizers, MSP for farmers are some of the bone of contentions between India and the developed countries. America’s position in this regard is capable of undermining India and other developing countries’ commitment to food security and poverty eradication. For the US and the developed bloc, India, China and the like are impeding the world trade potentials with their regressive subsidy policies and blocking foreigners from investing in their primary sector. According to them, India’s agricultural trade policies stand against the very idea of WTO.
However the US’s arguments in this context is almost hypocritical, which is clearly evident from the fact that the US offers subsidy on large scale to its commercial farmers. It is estimated that while India spends $ 500 mn on its population of 2 crores, US offers agricultural aid of about $2 bn to its 2 million farmers. While India has accepted the Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2014, US has over the time opposed the smoother implementation of the Doha round proposals regarding better tariff regime and easy trading environment.
On this background and considering India’s commitment towards the erstwhile Millennium Development Goals and the newly proposed Sustainable Development Goals, it wold be highly detrimental to dilute the stand for equitable trade regime. Developed block should understand the fact that the springing up of more multilateral and regional trade blocks is also an outcome of their discontent with WTO and its policies.
India would do well if it can push for the rapid implementation of Special Safeguard Mechanisms, which allows developing countries to temporarily raise the tariffs to deal with import surges, in lines of the Special Agricultural Safeguards of developed countries. With a population of 1.2 billion, of which 60% relying directly or indirectly on agriculture to make two meals a day possible, India shouldn’t even accept a question on undermining the food security commitments it has towards the people. And it shall be wiser and humanitarian from the part of developed countries to realize that for the global south and many of their counterparts in the North, playing with basic needs of their millions can be suicidal for the whole world.