Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bali conference basics

• What is it?
 It is a WTO ministerial conference. It is the 9th conference. It was held in Bali
• What is a ministerial conference?
Ministerial Conference is- the topmost decision-making body of the WTO. The Ministerial Conference usually meets every two years. It brings together all members of the WTO, all of which are countries or customs unions. The Ministerial Conference can take decisions on all matters under any of the multilateral trade agreement.
 • Why was it held?
Held to discuss the trade rules after nearly a decade of Doha Development Agenda. The World Trade Organization's first comprehensive agreement involves an effort to simplify the procedures for doing business across borders. There will also be improved duty-free access for goods sold by the world's poorest countries. The deal, which could add about $1tn to world trade, gives developing nations more scope to increase farm subsidies.
• What was the main issue?
Major issue= food security. India wanted to continue with the subsidies it provides to its farmers. India is of the view that we should be allowed to pay more than the market price to procure grains to build domestic government food stocks. Food Security Law may push India’s Minimum Support Prices (MSP) above WTO limits= countries in the world angry= USA says this is unacceptable. USA is of the view that it distorts trade and is against the overall spirit of free trade which aims to reduce and not increase the government’s intervention.
• What happened finally?
 A "peace clause" has been agreed, under which members agree not to initiate WTO disputes against those breaching the subsidy limits as part of a food-security programme. But it only lasts four years and there is criticism from campaigners. So finally the meeting concluded with a peace clause, which means that the world has agreed that they won’t challenge India’s food security measures before December 2017. In return, India has agreed that its policies will not distort trade or adversely affect food security of other WTO members.
 • What else happened at Bali?
 The countries have agreed to go for trade facilitation. It means that the countries have decided to cut the red tape that inhibits growth of trade and boost trade at global level by cutting the red tape. This is the thickest in developing countries. (This would help us to boost our exports, more exports= less CAD). Thus, the core of this is what is called trade facilitation. This is about reducing the costs and delays involved in international trade. It is often described as "cutting red tape". The countries have also agreed to provide the LDC easier access to developed countries markets.

 • What is India’s edge? India gains global leadership by getting a crucial poor-rich country imbalance corrected on a multilateral forum. Support subsidies to poor farmers across all developing countries get safeguards against WTO rule for which India has been working for aggressively. There is a strong belief that India's policy has broken WTO rules that limit farm subsidies. Getting this deal has involved introducing some extra flexibility into the existing WTO rules on farm subsidies. India led the campaign, by insisting that it should be allowed to subsidise grain under its new food security law.
• Final analysis
The Bali meeting was an important one for the WTO's credibility. The deal includes a rather small part of the negotiating programme that was launched 12 years ago, known as the Doha Round. Repeated delays have made the WTO seem irrelevant as a forum for negotiating trade liberalisation agreements. It was one of the main reasons so many countries have sought to make deals bilaterally or among small groups. The agreement will help repair the WTO's damaged image. Nonetheless, the rest of the Doha Round will be very difficult to conclude. The deal seeks further reductions in farm subsidies, tariffs on industrial goods, barriers to international trade in services and more. All are very difficult to conclude and are entwined with domestic political factors in many of the WTO's 159 member countries.

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