Q&A WITH SURESH PRABHU
At a time when the global trade is shrinking, the US is turning inward and China is seeking newer markets, Union commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu tells Anilesh S. Mahajan that India needs the World Trade Organization (WTO) more than ever before. Excerpts:
Q. After the Buenos Aires round, member countries pointed f ingers at the way the WTO was functioning and even wondered if it was needed at all.
We are opposed to this idea. India’s biggest success in the last ministerial conference was that it not only pushed the idea of WTO but also its purpose. We held a ‘miniministerial’ in Delhi to discuss ways to strengthen the WTO. In this round, India revitalised and re-established relationships with many member countries. We will discuss how to make the WTO dynamic.
Q. How do you envisage the WTO’s role in India’s global trade strategies? Many of your predecessors have complained that it is unfair (to developing economies).
India is poised to be the third largest economy. If we grow by more than 8 per cent, we will reach there in the next six-seven years; if we grow by 7 per cent, we will take a couple of years more. We are working on a multi-dimensional strategy. Reaching the $5 trillion mark is inevitable. Today, global output is higher than global trade. We need to re-strategise our global trade; so, we need the WTO more than ever before.
Q. US trade representative Robert Lighthizer has said that five of the six ‘richest countries’ are benefitting from differential treatment as developing economies… This has to be a collective decision of all WTO members. India is unique—a $2.5 trillion economy, but also home to a large number of poor. We qualify for differential treatment.