The government has made a right decision at the right time by rejecting proposed amendments to the agreement on agriculture at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which could prove to be boon for a few countries but bane for the others. According to an announcement made by the Ministry of Commerce, Pakistan has nullified efforts to amend the agreement on agriculture, aimed at benefiting a few at the cost of others and has demanded the world trade body to eliminate export and production subsidies on all agricultural commodities produced by developed and large economies. Pakistan rejects subsidies on all products, especially cotton, wheat and sugar in rich countries.
There were wide spread riots in New Delhi when India opted to sign agreement with WTO, and the government had to defend its farmers’ interests. But the policymakers in Pakistan apparently signed the agreement without reading its contents. Pakistan has agriculture economy, but its officials chose to remain aloof from the economic and commercial activities in the rest of the world. The developed countries have think tanks to discuss policy matters and guide the government on pressing issues. We lack everything. However, despite the fact that agreement on agriculture is internationally recognised part of the WTO treaty, not only Pakistan, but many other countries also critcised reduction in tariff protections for small farmers in developing countries. The trade body allowed the developed countries to continue to subsidise their agricultural sectors.
A ministerial meeting of the WTO held in 2013 in Bali, Indonesia, allowed public stock holding of agriculture commodities for exports under certain conditions to secure the interests of small farmers and ensure food security in developing economies. However, some countries misused the facility and exported the commodities kept in public stock, which had a negative impact on international trade. Pakistan believes that the proposal of public stockholding in its current form has adversely affected the country’s economy and wants to ensure that public stockholding should not hurt farmers in developing countries. Cotton is the backbone of the country’s economy and increase in value of cotton would affect textile sector once the subsidies are removed.
On another note, Pakistan has become the first country in the South Asia to sign the Trade Facilitation agreement with the WTO to exploit its geographical location and routes to enhance business and trade in the region. However, the government will have to take drastic steps to ensure pacy clearance of products and speed up trade. As a step toward regional integration, Pakistan has also signed International Transport of Goods agreement of the United Nations, to allow transit trade through its territories without paying customs duties or taxes. It is now up to the neighbouring countries to accept the hand of friendship from Pakistan and shun hostilities.