A meeting in Bali of the WTO is trying to force through a free trade agreement in a desperate effort to save the moribund Doha Round — and perhaps to save the WTO itself from a long overdue demise.
India has taken the lead: “For India, food security is non-negotiable,” Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma told WTO members at the group’s ninth ministerial conference. In the prepared remarks, he went further:
“We have a half-baked agricultural package, statements of pious intent for Least Developed Countries and several unresolved issues in the trade facilitation agenda. None of the texts requires the developed countries to make binding commitments for the benefit of developing countries. In contrast, developing countries would be required to undertake significant commitments in trade facilitation.”
According to Politico’s Doug Palmer today: “While WTO members do not object to India’s intention to provide subsidized food for nearly two-thirds of its 1.2 billion people, the United States and many other countries do have deep concerns over its plan to build up government grain stocks for that program by increasing farm subsidy payments that distort trade.” Starvation, of course is no justification for “distorting trade.” Recall that the British Empire shipped tons of food from India to the UK during periods of deadly famine, arguing that it would be “immoral” to break the contracts—something which you can be sure that India recalls clearly as they make their choices regarding the WTO.
The genocide lobby is panicked. US Trade Rep Michael Froman said: “Let us not sugar-coat reality: Leaving Bali this week without an agreement would deal a debilitating blow to the WTO as a forum for multilateral negotiations. Froman “heaped pressure on India to move by stressing the consequences of a collapse and the strides countries have already made toward reaching a deal,” according to Politico.
European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht told reporters “storm clouds of failure” hovered over Bali because of the food security spat, and a number of trade ministers warned of a dire future for the WTO if a deal is not reached, reports Politico. Such a failure would be a victory for mankind.
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter released a statement Monday saying that “developing countries must be allowed to use their reserves to improve food security without facing sanctions. Trade rules must be shaped around the food security policies that developing countries need, rather than policies having to tiptoe around WTO rules.”