Narendra Modiís WTO opportunity

Jul 22 2014, 16:03 IST
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WTO proposals on food stocks are in keeping with Modiís FCI-revamp strategy WTO proposals on food stocks are in keeping with Modiís FCI-revamp strategy
SummaryWTO food stocks proposals in keeping with Modi's FCI-revamp strategy. Why are we opposing a win-win plan?

Despite the recent BRICS bonhomie and the agreement on the BRICS Bank and the Contingency Reserve Agreement (CRA), surely no one in the government believes that India can get favourable loans from the Bank or, God forbid, a large standby line from the CRA if there is an escalation in tensions with China? Or even if they remain at current levels of stapled visas.

Few would remember, but something similar happened when the Vajpayee government conducted its nuclear test on May 11, 1998, and the World Bank was forced to put off all loans. Within a year or so, however, the Bank was back giving loans to India; power loans were pushed through as anti-poverty Ė the poor benefit the most from more power availability in the state, it was argued Ė programmes. Thatís the power of multilateralism; something which, by its very nature can never be available from a BRICS-type forum which is driven by the interests of just four countries, not all of whom see eye to eye on most things.

Which is why, despite the attempt to forge better bilateral or regional ties Ė BRICS is not even a region, it is a disparate group coined by a Goldman Sachs economist Ė India has to be at the helm of multilateral forum. The last thing India wants is to be branded a pariah in global trade talks, yet that is precisely what is in danger of happening with India debating whether or not to ratify the WTO proposal on trade facilitation Ė a Cabinet meeting is to take a call on this on Wednesday.

UPA made bad food policies such an article of faith, even a pragmatist like Modi who is working to fix FCI and illogical food subsidies may fall for UPA trap and oppose WTO trade facilitation to preserve the bad Food Security Act and brand India a pariah in world trade talks

Though trade facilitation measures such as reducing delays at ports, for instance, will benefit Indian importers and exporters immensely, the view emanating from the government is the same as it was in the UPA days Ė talk of continuity of policy in the great democracy called India! Ė that India will not sacrifice its food security rights at any cost. In the words of Anand Sharma, at Bali last year, ďFor India, food security is non-negotiable, need of public stock-holding of foodgrains to

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