Q&A WITH SURESH PRABHU

India Today - - UPFRONT -

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.

VIKRAM SHARMA

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