MINISTER URGES PROTECTION FOR WTO

In a keynote lecture at the LSE, India’s commerce minister announced plans to host a forthcoming mini-ministerial meet to discuss promoting and safeguarding the WTO, Athira Suresh reports

The London School of Economics was the setting for a recent symposium entitled ‘The role of trade and investment in driving sustainable and inclusive growth’, at which India’s Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Dr Suresh Prabhu, gave a keynote address highlighting the importance of protecting the World Trade Organisation. Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Y. K. Sinha, also sat on the panel, and renowned British economist and politician Professor Lord Nicholas Stern was in the chair.

Dr Prabhu compared the WTO favourably with the United Nations, saying that, while the former is very democratic in nature, allowing all its member countries an equal voice, the UN is much less so, as Security Council members have the globally-scrutinised power to veto.

Reducing poverty should be the main objective of trade, the minister insisted.The expansion of the global economy since 2008 had resulted in a phenomenal diminishing in the numbers facing poverty, he said.‘This is when countries such as China and India invested significantly. It is not a coincidence that that was the period in which global trade also expanded considerably. Hence, there is a linkage between trade and investment, and reduction of poverty.’

He announced that India will host a mini-ministerial meet with important countries in March this year to discuss steps to protect and promote the WTO to a new level, thereby giving the organisation a chance to expand. Past WTO meetings in Doha and Buenos Aires were merely ‘talks’, he said, adding:‘We have been discussing the issue of climate change as if it is only a part of academics. No action has been taken so far.’He suggested mainstreaming social concerns into economic development so that, while framing economic policies, issues such as climate change would be considered.

To promote both the national and global economy, India is trying to create six new industries which are not even born today, and India is trying to include global priorities while doing this. ‘We need to ensure that we have a sustainable system that will benefit as many people as possible,’ concluded Dr Prabhu.

During a discussion with audience members, Mr Sinha spoke of India’s ‘bucket list’ wish for more freedom of movement that might be part ofa mutually beneficial agreement between trading partners such as the UK.

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