July 30, 2006, The Economic Times
New Delhi, India

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) should not be burdened with issues other than trade. All non-trade issues like labour and environmental standards should be kept off the WTO agenda, Yale University professor T N Srinivasan said on Saturday. Such issues would over-load the WTO agenda and impede progress in global trade liberalisation.

It was a blunder to make intellectual properties (Trips) a part of the multilateral framework, the leading economist said. The mistake should not be repeated for issues like labour and environment. “India should examine whether it is possible to get Trips off the agenda. In any case, it should prevent labour and environmental issues to become a part of the agreement,” he said.

Prof Srinivasan was speaking on the future of the global trading system at a lecture organised by CUTS in New Delhi. Emphasising on the dangers of making such issues part of the WTO which has a sting enforcement system, he pointed out that when India agreed to Trips during the Uruguay round it did not know what it would finally look like. “The Trips agreement has turned out to be much more draconian than we could ever imagine,” he said.

Prof Srinivasan pointed out that there were specialised institutions for handling non-trade issues like WIPO for intellectual property and UNEP for environment. “Don’t muck up WTO with issues that don’t fit in,” he said.

Talking about the recent suspension in talks, Prof Srinivasan said that there was a sense of deja vu all over again as in the WTO system everything repeats itself. Whenever there is an impasse, members keep saying that they will stick to bilaterals, but that is not the way out, he said.

The professor warned against the use of threatening gestures by developed countries and said that instead they should work towards forging a consensus for reaching the ultimate goal of freeing the movement of goods, services, factors and technology from policy-created barriers.

This news can also be read at following URL: