Pakistan counters India on trade issues at WTO meet

Published : 12 Dec 2017 19:38 PM | Source :Timesofindia

NEW DELHI: "We don't want to dirty our hands with genhu (wheat), chawal (rice) and chini (sugar). I wonder why your people want to do it," said Syed Tauqir Shah, Pakistan's ambassador to World Trade Organization (WTO).

Shah's remarks came hours after commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu on Monday told trade ministers from 164 countries that India did not envisage an outcome at the WTO meet which did not result in a permanent solution to its food security concerns. The government believes the current rules may make it tough for many developing and poor countries, including China, from procuring grains, oil seeds and pulses through a regime similar to minimum support price in India.

While Pakistan is a member of the G-33 coalition seeking a permanent solution, among other things, it has opted to take a stand opposed to India on food security. "We have done away with ration shops and moved to cash transfers through an ID-based progamme, like yours. We don't want to do it," Shah said.

But has Pakistan abandoned procurement through an MSP-like programme? "There is a problem in building massive stocks like India. There are concerns about impact in third countries," the Pakistan ambassador said referring to possible export of subsidised food stuff in global markets.

Like in other areas, Pakistan has opted to take a position diametrically opposite to India on trade issues. The only exception is the demand that developed countries reduce subsidies to their farmers, a subject where India and China have joined hands.

On others, such as a global framework for e-commerce and investment facilitation, being pushed by China, Pakistan's position is backing its closest ally in the region. "Why should we only allow Ebay to sell in our country when many of our small businesses can't register on Ebay or PayPal?" Shah asked after a session addressed by Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma.

But how will investment rules help Pakistan? The Pakistan ambassador believes it will not result in a competitive environment where countries battle it out to attract investors. With Pakistan-based companies under the lens for possible links to terror, Shah's stance is not surprising.

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