World Trade Organisation (WTO) Current Affairs - 2019

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India finds OECD’s STR Index faulty

India has found problems with the current methodology adopted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) under its Services Trade Restrictiveness Index (STRI) to rank countries.

Key Highlights

  • About: A study commissioned by Indian Ministry of Commerce found that OECD index, the STRI has a several problems associated with it, which also includes some significant design issues that render the index impractical for use.
  • Issues: As per India the outcomes of STRI are biased and counter-intuitive.
  • The initial work suggests that there are both empirical and theoretical inconsistencies in STRI’s methodology.
  • The data generated by OECD’s methodology seems to have been through arbitrary procedures and reflects being bias towards developed country.
  • It shows Indian services sector as highly restrictive in areas such as FDI.
  • Impractical: For instance, STRI seems to show the services sector in India as one of the most restrictive in world, particularly in policy areas like foreign entry, FDI etc. This is astonishing as since 1991, following the LPG reforms the one area that has seen maximum liberalisation in India is Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
  • India’s Approach: India is trying to build a consensus around adopting a new method of measuring trade restrictiveness in services sector. For this India approached several developing countries during recently-concluded WTO Ministerial talks held in New Delhi. It has also approached South Africa, Indonesia, China, Turkey and Brazil.
  • India’s Argument: Unlike manufacturing trade which has a well-documented system of classification of commodities, the problem in services, is that for a long time there was not any way to find that whether a country’s service trade policies were restrictive.
  • Also, even if it was ascertain as restrictive it was not known that what to do about it since services trade is usually regulated by domestic regulations and not border tariffs.

About STRI

  • It was launched in 2014, by The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
  • It purpose is to rank countries based on their services trade policies.
  • STRI (computed by OECD) is now available for year 2018. It includes a total of 45 economies (with 36 OECD and the rest non-OECD) and 22 sectors. These countries and sectors undertaken represent more than 80% of global trade in services.

India moves WTO against US

India has moved the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the US as it has not yet complied with the rulings of the WTO pertaining to imposition of high import duty on certain Indian steel products.

In December 2014, the WTO’s appellate body pronounced a ruling against the act of US which is imposing high import duty on certain Indian steel products. It had ruled that the imposition of import duty on steel products was inconsistent with various provisions of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.  

The Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (the SCM Agreement) – addresses two separate but closely related matters-The multilateral disciplines on the use of subsidies and the conditions under which Members may apply countervailing measures.

India has sought consultation with the US for compliance of the WTO’s rulings. If the US refuses to comply then India has planned to approach the WTO’s compliance panel.

In order to comply with the WTO rulings on countervailing duties on imports of hot-rolled carbon steel products from India, the US needs to amend its domestic norms.

Earlier, the US had moved the arbitration panel of the WTO against India as it complained that India had failed to remove trade restrictions on American poultry.

WTO

The WTO is an inter-governmental organization for governments to negotiate global trade agreements and progressively liberalizing trade. The WTO operates a system of trade rules that apply to all its members. The WTO is also a place for Member governments to settle their trade disputes. Its located in Geneva, Switzerland. It was established on 1 January 1995 and its official languages are English, French and Spanish.

Countervailing duties are those duties that are imposed by a country to counter the negative impact of import subsidies to protect domestic producers.