WTO is an important international institution where decisions taken affect countries in profound manner. What is the mandate of WTO and how binding are their decisions? Critically analyse India’s stand on the latest round of talks on Food security.

The WTO oversees international trade between nations, and acts as the forum for nations to negotiate and develop the rules that govern international trade. Its major mandate is to reduce trade barriers, tariffs and quotas, while promoting free trade. The WTO also has a body for dispute settlement. When a country fails to comply with WTO rules, any other country may take it to WTO’s dispute settlement body. The countries are encourage to settle the disputes through consultation; if the consultation fails, however, a panel is constituted to hear the case. The verdict of this panel is circulated amongst WTO members, who can also reject the ruling. However, if the ruling is accepted and a violation is proved, the country violating the rules must change its rules in line with the WTO agreements, unless it chooses to appeal the ruling. If the violating country fails to do this, the complaining country and the violating country may determine a mutually-acceptable compensation, failing which, the complaining country may retaliate suitably.

India is a developing country, with millions of people still struggling to feed themselves. Though India’s holding up of the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement was an unfavourable outcome, it is important for India to ensure that its food security programs and the foodgrains procurement schemes aren’t affected. Also, the peace clause of 4 years would have resulted in imposition of penalties on India for its food subsidies after the 4 years term, hence, it is in India’s interest in the long run to have pushed for a permanent solution instead of a stopgap measure.

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