WTO articles tilted towards developed countries
Developing countries have to join their hands to
safeguard their interest
By SHABBIR H. KAZMI
May 14 - 20, 2001
Since 1948 formation and then implementation and
monitoring of these rules pertaining to international trade was done
according to general Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT). From 1986 to
1994 under this agreement new rules of the game were prepared and
various agreements were signed and the World Trade Organization (WTO)
replaced the GATT. The broad objective behind creation of the WTO was to
ensure free trade among the members through gradual withdrawal of tariff
and non-tariff barriers. However, some of the recent demonstrations,
throughout the world, indicates an immense resentment against the WTO.
The Export Promotion Bureau with the assistance of
Pakistan's representative at WTO and FAO organized a seminar on
Agreement on Agriculture(AoA) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPM).
The objective was to let the Pakistani business community know about the
various agreements and their implications for the country. It was a
two-day seminar and experts provided the details about the agreements.
The AoA is considered one of the most important in a set of 30
agreements and generally viewed a threat to food security of the
developing countries because over 50 per cent of the population of these
countries is involved in agriculture. This agreement provides an
opportunity to transnational corporations to virtually control the
income and food of the most vulnerable.
The WTO was established to promote the free market
ideology and many issues were redefined, including the meaning of trade.
However, it appears that many areas once considered the domain of state
are now being takenover by the WTO — including agriculture. In the
post world war II era a regime was created to favour the protectionist
environment for agricultural production and trade as it suited the USA.
High subsidy levels as well as strict import controls were placed which
resulted in surpluses which are now being diverted to rest of the world.
The general consensus at the seminar was that WTO
members were distinctly divided into two categories, developed and
developing countries. Most of the articles and agreements are tilted
towards developed countries. To bring a change or amendment in these
articles developing countries will have to join their hands to reap the
real benefits of globalization.
It was also marked that while the developed countries
insist on continuation of their past practice, developing countries are
being forced to open up their markets and also withdraw the subsidies
provided to agriculture. It was also observed that developed countries
provide subsidies to many sectors, agriculture in particular, which
comprise of a small percentage of population. These groups may be small
but enjoy enormous political clout and are capable of pressurizing their
governments to continue subsidy on farm products. As against this a
country like Pakistan has to protect the interest of millions of people,
nearly 60 per cent of total population, dependent on agriculture.
Therefore, subsidy on farm products is necessary to avoid any distortion
in social fabric.
As regards textile quota phase out and its
integration in free trade regime, the experience of developing countries
may be expressed as 'completely disappointing'. Some of the textile
products have been termed 'sensitive' by the developed countries and
their integration is being done at a very slow pace. These products are
the main foreign exchange earners for the developing countries. Despite
the claim by the developed countries that their markets are open, they
resist import of various commodities from the developing countries by
imposing non-tariff barriers.
While quota regime is being phased out, imposition of
anti-dumping duties to protect the local industries has become common.
Often the dumping allegations are based on very weak grounds and
quantitative restrictions and anti-dumping duties are imposed. Even if a
country on which these measures are imposed wins the case it has to bear
colossal legal expenses and loss of business. One is forced to draw a
conclusion that by imposing such duties and quantitative restrictions,
breathing space is provided to local industry.
Regional trade blocks, mostly created by the
developed countries, are against the spirit of the true concept of
globalization. These blocks are sponsored and controlled by the
developed countries and a few developing or least developed countries
are included. These peripheral countries are often the source of supply
for low cost manpower and raw materials for the developed countries. The
added advantage is that they also become a protected market for the
items produced by the developed countries.