Modi Bets the Farm

Why Indian Agricultural Policy Might Unravel the WTO

Farm laborers in the western Indian state of Gujarat, October 2012. Amit Dave / Courtesy Reuters

A trade spat with India is threatening to push the World Trade Organization, already suffering from flagging credibility thanks to a lack of concrete results, into irrelevance. At the end of July, in a move that startled the WTO’s 160 members, India blocked a landmark international agreement that would have streamlined trade across the world. India had already approved the deal, which was struck at a WTO summit in Bali last December, but suddenly refused to live up to the deal’s first step -- signing a one-paragraph accession protocol -- without simultaneous progress on another matter -- food security, specifically greater concessions that would enable India to continue to subsidize its poor farmers.

India’s decision was a disappointing blow for a vast majority of WTO countries. The Bali deal was meant to be a crucial breakthrough, simplifying customs rules and potentially expanding the global economy by as much

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