MAKING OUT a case for eliminating rifts and differences to build a new world order, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday flagged the rising threat of protectionism with a new layer of tariff and non-tariff barriers being erected and countries increasingly focusing inwards. Speaking at the plenary of World Economic Forum in his first visit to Davos, and the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 20 years, Modi also pitched India as an investment destination, emphasising on efforts to improve ease of doing business. “We have made it so easier to invest in India, manufacture in India and work in India. We have decided to uproot licence and permit Raj. We are replacing red tape with red carpet,” he said. In the global context, Modi said that bilateral negotiations have virtually come to a standstill because of the new trade barriers. “We have to accept that globalisation is losing lustre with the intention being to reverse the natural flow of globalisation, and forces of protectionism are raising their heads again,” he said in a keynote address on the opening day of the WEF.
Modi’s remarks come just a couple of days before President Donald Trump’s scheduled appearance here, with the US pushing hard for America First economic and foreign policies. Last month, criticism by the US of the rules-based, multilateral trading system that the World Trade Organization (WTO) represents resulted in a stalemate of the bi-annual ministerial conference of the trade body. The move by a number of countries, including the US, the UK, Australia and Singapore, to tighten their visa processes for foreign skilled workers in recent years have reinforced fears of protectionism in services trade as well.
Opting to speak in Hindi, in a speech that lasted for over 40 minutes, Modi referred to fractures in the global scenario. “Is our global order widening these fault lines and increasing differences? What are the powers which give preference to conflicts over co-operation and what are the paths we can follow to eliminate rifts and differences,” he said, underlying the need to realise the dream of a shared future, which is one of the themes at this WEF edition. Peppering his speech with quotes from Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and the Upanishads, Modi said that as a representative of India, he could say that the country believed in “linking people and not dividing them”.
“The essence of a family is that everyone comes together in solidarity. It is a matter of concern that rife among nations has made the challenges complex and harder… The challenge we face is daunting,” he said, while addressing the audience of global CEOs and other leaders, including the President of Switzerland. Modi also noted that the last time when an Indian prime minister came here in 1997, India’s GDP was a little more than $400 billion, but now it has increased more than six-times. upon the issue of climate change, he urged the world to think about what can be done to mitigate this threat while emphasising that caring for the environment is a part of India’s culture. (With inputs from PTI)