Benefits of global trade due to WTO, says Prabhu.

Benefits of global trade due to WTO, says Prabhu.

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Johnson Cherian.
Minister for Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu made a strong defence of the World Trade Organisation and the multilateral trading system, and expressed his optimism about tackling the issue of food security, following the impasse at the Buenos Aires WTO meeting in December.
“The benefits of global trade expansion have happened largely because of the WTO,” said Mr. Prabhu, speaking at the London School of Economics during an official visit to the U.K. this week. The WTO was “democratic, rule-based, transparent and something more unique — no decision can be taken without consensus,” he said contrasting it with the United Nations, and the limited ability of countries to exercise their veto to those within the Security Council. This veto was coming under increasing scrutiny globally, he added.
The WTO, by contrast, gave all members an equally strong voice, which offered the best choice for taking forward the “expansion of global trade” and “bringing more economic prosperity for people at large” as well as dealing with the issues of poverty and the need for inclusive growth.
‘Easy whipping boy’
Those who questioned the WTO itself had turned it into an ‘easy whipping boy’, he said. “We need to make sure that this organisation is promoted, protected and taken forward.” This did not mean reforms were not necessary to make it more transparent and effective, he said. Moreover, the WTO and constituent countries had to address the issues of economic development and inclusivity, according to him. “The ultimate aim of economic activity and trade must be economic development,” he said. “if you don’t address issues of development that may be social or human in nature you aren’t dealing with the objective,” he said contrasting the rise in global trade and activity with rising levels of income disparity globally that were “unparalleled.” “If you don’t address development as an issue you will be alienating a large number of people.” He also criticised the global trend towards protectionism, and the emphasis on expanding one’s own export markets. “how can we export at all if everyone says only this?,” he said.
He said that he hoped the trade ministerial meeting due to take place in New Delhi in March – in the wake of the Buenos Aires meet – would help lead to a way forward. “we will try and bring important countries to discuss and find a way forward to take WTO to new level.”
On the issue of resolving India’s concerns around protecting food security, and the failure of the Buenos Aires round of talks, he expressed optimism on moving forward. “this cant be an issue in which there is any dispute at all… there should be no reason why there is a problem.”

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