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WTO Meet: resolved to meet again

With the visible distaste of US President Donald Trump of multilateral institutions, it is becoming increasingly difficult to build consensus on global issues. The US has decided to withdraw from the UNESCO and resile on the Paris agreement on climate. The recent one relates to a combative approach to trade issues at the WTO.

The change in US stance to look inward and at national concerns is in contrast to the spirit  with which the US helped form and support several multilateral institutions in the aftermath of the Second World War. Remember the US’ magnanimity in aiding the reconstruction of post-war Europe as also the upliftment of numerous developing countries through bilateral and multilateral aid?

While multilateral trade has got stuck at the different meets since 2000, the impact has been increasingly severe post the 2008 economic slowdown. Europe is still regaining its past growth momentum and does not seem to be enthusiastic in appreciating the special requirements of developing countries like India to tackle poverty alleviation.

It is in this background, the stalemate at the recent ministerial conference of WTO at  Buenos Aires should be viewed. The divide was pronounced in regard to farm subsidies. Agriculture in developed countries has been sustained by such hefty subsidies, estimated to cost $160 billion. Developing countries have been arguing the case for a vast reduction in such subsidies to ensure fair international trade practices. This remains unheeded.

On the contrary, developed countries have been demanding the elimination of subsidies extended by developing countries to their poor and needy sections to maintain buffer stocks of food to tackle abject poverty.

Representing India, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu pointed to 800 million of global people going to bed hungry and under-nourished. Along with his Chinese counterpart, he sought a permanent solution for the subsidies involved in public stock-holding to ensure food security.

Sadly, both the stances remained irreconcilable.  So, the only resolution was to resolve to meet again two years hence.

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