If the World Trade Organisation (WTO) finds itself unable to implement the “trade facilitation” agreement it had reached at its meeting at the Indonesian island of Bali in December, the developed nations are wholly to blame. When India told the WTO meeting at Geneva last week that it would not ratify the agreement unless its own concerns were addressed, it was forced to do so by the adamancy of some rich nations. For the agreement to come into force, it has to be ratified by all the members by the end of this month. The developed nations are keen to have the new trade regulations kickstarted as they would benefit most from trade worth trillions of dollars.
India’s position has been simple and straightforward — the heavens will not fall if the implementation of the trade facilitation agreement is postponed till the end of this year. By then India wants the WTO to take a decision on its demand that its food security programme will not be subjected to any arbitrary ceiling. The WTO wants countries not to spend beyond a certain percentage of their GDP on food procurement and storage to ensure food security to their people. India has tens of millions of people who need food at subsidised rates and they cannot be left to fend for themselves, as demanded by some rich nations which call the shots in the WTO.
At Bali, they were not ready to accept India’s plea, which found affirmation in many developing nations, beyond giving it more time to comply with its protocol. They were keener to implement the trade facilitation agreement than to consider the demands of nations like India. Needless to say, this did not redound to the credit of an organisation which was committed to take along all its 160 members because systematic and orderly world trade was in the interest of one and all. If anything, all this is a reflection of the trust deficit that plagues the WTO. The rich nations must remember that it is as much their responsibility as it is India’s to save the Doha Round.