6 Feb 2013

Round Table Discussion on “WTO in crisis – and what about India?”

The Centre for WTO Studies, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) New Delhi and the World Trade Institute jointly organised a Round Table on “WTO in crisis – and what about India?” on 6 February 2013 at the premises of the IIFT in New Delhi.

Dr Christian Häberli, Senior Research Fellow of the WTI and NCCR Trade Regulation presented his views as a long-time WTO negotiator, committee chair, and panellist, from his present academic vantage point. His presentation was commented on by Prof. Manoj Pant, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Manab Majumdar, Assistant Secretary General, Federation of Indian Industries (FICCI) and Prof. Abhijit Das, Head, Centre for WTO Studies, IIFT, after which the floor was opened for a discussion with the public.

The Round Table covered the following aspects: The Doha Round has finally been declared to be at an “impasse”. Even before this, global attention had shifted to other issues such as the financial and economic crisis, climate change, and energy and food security. So far, little multilateral progress has been achieved. Is multilateralism in crisis? Presently, tariffs and some non-tariff barriers are being negotiated in agreements without India. New WTO talks are “plurilateral” but we have yet to see an agreement with results going substantially beyond the rules of the Uruguay Round. Litigation, of course, can solve some burning disputes, but only on the basis of the existing, and now 20 years old, rules. India, for that matter, has been successfully warding off negotiations it considers as going against its interests, but it seems to be conspicuous by its absence from the remaining negotiating fora – and it has lost some of its trade disputes in the WTO, which remains the kingpin of multilateral trade.

The discussion was very lively. The audience consisted of academics, practitioners from various law firms, government officials and students.