WTO's Reforms Have to Take into Account Interests of All Members, Says Suresh Prabhu

Reforms of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have to take into account the interests of all the member countries and it has to come out with a forward-looking agenda in an inclusive manner, former Union minister Suresh Prabhu said on Monday. He said a new world is going to unfold, and multilateralism is under a serious threat.

"The question is how to deal with this threat when it is needed most. The WTO is on a ventilator and it has to come out of it. We have to find a solution. It can't be one way or another. WTO's reforms have to take into account the interests of all members. It has to come out with a forward-looking agenda in an inclusive manner," he said.

Prabhu said this while participating in a webinar on 'COVID-19 and the Imperative of Resurrecting the Multilateral Trading System', organised by CUTS International.

Participating in the programme, former director general of WTO Pascal Lamy said that a multilateral, rules-based and open trading system will be even more challenged in a post-coronavirus world.

"There has to be a balance between market access needs and regulations related to ensure safety and security for the consumers...Also, it is expected that there will be a steep increase in precautionary measures, which will further harm cross-border trade. In sum, we will see a more fragmented trading system," he said.

CUTS International Secretary General Pradeep Mehta said it is the responsibility of the middle powers, including India, to collectively provide a strong leadership for the resurrection of the multilateral trading system.

WTO is 164-member multilateral body, which frames rules for global trade. India is one of its members since 1995.