The WTO’s Buenos Aires has shown the world how trade will look in the twenty-first century. Divided and self-looking, countries may not go further and even may go backward from the position that we were in the close of the last century. Once again, the organization was proved to be a coalition of conflicting interests. All that is because of the advent of economic nationalism.
At Buenos Aires, WTO has become just characteristic. The institution has not made a notable trade reform in the last twenty-two years ie., ever since its inception.
But what is remarkable about Buenos Aires was the reflection of blooming protectionism in the West, guarded and promoted by Donald Trump. The first Ministerial Conference since the Presidency of Trump was a proof that how the world body will go in future. US has vetoed developing countries’ demand for permitting food procurement subsidy.
On the other side, the US and its pressure groups accuse that India and several other developing countries blocked discussion on the 21st century issue of ecommerce.
But equating ecommerce that made its entry into the discussion table only this year with the four-year-old food subsidy issue lacks sense. The latter one was having a dead-line at Buenos Aires; whereas ecommerce was just a starter. Here lies the US’s hard stand with Trump.
At the same time, an alternative form of trade discussion engagement was emerged at Buenos Aires – to slice the 164 members into short groups in a ‘like-minded’ basis. “Short-term plurilateral arrangements within the WTO framework is the best way forward@ – asserted one representative. Of course, too many people can’t create a decision.
Another interesting development was consolidation of the West against non-market friendly policies of China. The EU and Japan joined the United States and pledged to fight market-distorting policies mostly followed by China that have produced excess industrial capacity, by giving heavy subsidies to state enterprises. This is a proof- that conflict between erstwhile supporters of globalisation ie., the West and its only beneficiary – China is intensifying; and the US is winning new friends.
The non-outcome at Buenos Aires decisively leaves a sound message – the WTO has entered the Trump era.