Developing countries like India need a special treatment in trade, food security and subsidies

Donald Trump administration has no business in subverting the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha development agenda. Having withdrawn from International Solar Alliance (ISA) and Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Republican administration in the US seems to be making a case to pull out of the WTO.

Otherwise, the US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer would not have been blind to rampant poverty in developing countries, including India. Lighthizer’s address at WTO smacks of arrogance while making light of genuine demand from developing countries for special and differential treatment in trade, food security and subsidies.

Trump administration should not forget that the US amassed huge wealth over the years at the cost of developing and least developed countries. About a billion people in developing countries continue to languish in poverty as direct fallout of military, trade and economic imperialistic practices pursued by successive Republican and Democratic administrations.

Several European economies and the US  prospered only because of the derogation in rules laid down by General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). West European economies and the US  benefited immensely from rules especially in agriculture and textile sectors.

In this backdrop, stymieing the efforts of developing countries to protect modest livelihoods of about one billion people should not be nipped in the bud. India should resist all such moves that would push over 600 million people further into extreme poverty. Developed countries will have to appreciate efforts made by nations like India to quickly pull out large number of its citizens from extreme poverty with sustained high GDP growth rates. 

Hence, performance should not put India and other developing countries to disadvantage vis-à-vis services and goods trade. For instance, how can providing food grains and making them affordable to people in extreme poverty be crime? Why should stocking food grains to insulate the poor people from the US  multinational exploitation become a horror story?

Commerce minister Suresh Prabhu is right when he calls the the US  stand on food security issues as convoluted and spacious. It also reflects anti-human policies of Trump administration that lacks vision and sensitivity to phase out poverty.

India cannot expect anything better from Trump administration that’s out to destroy rule-based trading regime, special and differential treatment to developing countries. Bali declaration had clearly outlined the peace clause i.e. no member of WTO were to challenge the food security measures till a permanent solution was found. The US  is a party to the Bali package on which it proposes to renege. Violation of 10 per cent subsidy cap on food grains at prices prevailing in 1986-88 cannot become a crime given that these support programmes were designed to bring people out of poverty.

Secondly, developed countries cannot but hang their heads in shame given that they continue to subsidise their own farmers under the agriculture agreement. While billions of dollars were doled out in west Europe and the US to the farming community, providing subsistence support to fishing community in developing countries cannot be opposed the very powers that be.

Developed countries will have to first phase out their farm subsidies that are an aberration to global food order as well as trade. The US  stand against food security tantamount to discriminating against the poor in developing countries. That cannot become a binding law for India and torpedo the attempts to fight against poverty.

India and other developing countries will have to protect their offensive and defensive interests on their own collective strength to further the Doha development agenda sought to be derailed by the US and its cohorts by bringing in new issues. The Bali package with food security issues central to WTO trade negotiations must be implemented with all seriousness that it deserves.