The WTO’s leaky boat may be our best hope in a storm

News: In recent months, Russia’s incursion into Ukraine’s sovereign territory has led to new arrangements in the geo-economic and geopolitical arena.

What are the new arrangements or consequences?

The Western academics are arguing that the war spells the end of a liberal world order regime that was established since the fall of the Berlin Wall and break-up of the Soviet Union,

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has reactivated many fault-lines that lay dormant in the global economy.

There may be a renewed contestation between the West and poor nations, or even civil wars in poverty-stricken nations because the notion of trade in the US and EU is still rooted in an outdated economic orthodoxy.

What are the reasons for such re-arrangement?

(1) A report of the FAO and the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), titled Hunger Hotspots, predicts that around 20 countries will be facing a heightened food availability crisis over the next three months.

(2) Although the world was already facing a food emergency before The Ukraine War, due to the pandemic and climate change during 2020 and 2021. However, the Russian aggression has worsened the case and triggered a major global food crisis“.

(3) India and 29 other countries have banned wheat exports after the grain prices skyrocketed globally. India saw wheat production falling short of forecasts and total food grain stocks dipping

What are the challenges to India’s wheat export ban decision?

Seven WTO members—including the US, Japan, the EU and UK, have raised concerns over India’s export bans at the WTO’s first agriculture meeting after MC12.

The Western leadership has undermined India’s attempts to ensure food security for its citizens. This food security is done through subsidies at both the production and consumption stages at the WTO forum. For example, The US Congressmen want to register formal objections at the WTO against India’s trade-distorting agricultural policies.

The formula being used to determine whether these subsidies are within permissible limits is based on outdated data.

All attempts made by India and other developing countries to seek a permanent solution have failed so far.

Other related challenges

These advanced nations put private profit ahead of public health in times of global crisis.

For example, rich nations refused to relax intellectual property rights (IPR) for global vaccine distribution at the height of the pandemic when India and South Africa proposed such a covid occasioned relaxation.

Way Forward

The WTO’s role has become non-negotiable, given the severe food crisis confronting the planet. Therefore, the multilateral platforms like the World Trade Organization (WTO) hold out the best chance of confronting these challenges for the sake of developing countries.

At the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference, or MC12, it agreed that India and the others will supply wheat to the WFP, while being allowed to meet their domestic food security needs.

At the MC12, the developing countries were allowed to produce and sell patented vaccines, both in the domestic and international markets

India should continue to defend India’s decisions at plurilateral meetings, including in the media.

India’ should create a coalition of developing nations on multilateral platforms in order to oppose the resistance..

Source: The post is based on an article “The WTO’s leaky boat may be our best hope in a storm” published in the Live Mint on 3rd July 2022.

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