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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 17 February 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. New director-general of the World Trade Organization
  2. Coal burning responsible for pollution in India: IEACCC

NEW DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION

Context:

Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was appointed was appointed as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as it seeks to resolve disagreements over how it decides cases involving billions in sales and thousands of jobs.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. World Trade Organization (WTO)
  2. Functions of WTO
  3. Structure of WTO
  4. The WTO and the United Nations (UN)
  5. Issues related to the WTO

World Trade Organization (WTO)

  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations.
  • It is the largest international economic organization in the world.
  • The headquarters of the World Trade Organization is in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The WTO deals with regulation of trade in goods, services and intellectual property between participating countries by providing a framework for negotiating trade agreements and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants’ adherence to WTO agreements, which are signed by representatives of member governments.
  • The WTO prohibits discrimination between trading partners, but provides exceptions for environmental protection, national security, and other important goals.
  • Trade-related disputes are resolved by independent judges at the WTO through a dispute resolution process.
  • The WTO has 164 members (including European Union) and 23 observer governments (like Iran, Iraq, Bhutan, Libya etc.)
  • India is a founder member of the 1947 GATT and its successor, the WTO.

Origin of WTO

  • The WTO is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was created in 1947.
  • The Uruguay Round (1986-94) of the GATT led to the WTO’s creation. WTO began operations on 1st January, 1995.
  • The Agreement Establishing the WTO, commonly known as the “Marrakesh Agreement”, was signed in Marrakesh, Morocco in 1994.

Functions of WTO

  1. Trade negotiations: The WTO agreements cover goods, services and intellectual property. They spell out the principles of liberalization, and the permitted exceptions. They set procedures for settling disputes.
  2. Implementation and monitoring: WTO agreements require governments to make their trade policies transparent by notifying the WTO about laws in force and measures adopted. Various WTO councils and committees seek to ensure that these requirements are being followed and that WTO agreements are being properly implemented.
  3. Dispute settlement: The WTO’s procedure for resolving trade quarrels under the Dispute Settlement Understanding is vital for enforcing the rules and therefore for ensuring that trade flows smoothly.
  4. Building trade capacity: WTO agreements contain special provision for developing countries, including longer time periods to implement agreements and commitments, measures to increase their trading opportunities, and support to help them build their trade capacity, to handle disputes and to implement technical standards.
  5. Outreach: The WTO maintains regular dialogue with non-governmental organizations, parliamentarians, other international organizations, the media and the general public on various aspects of the WTO and the ongoing Doha negotiations, with the aim of enhancing cooperation and increasing awareness of WTO activities.

Structure of WTO

  • Structure of the WTO is dominated by its highest authority, the Ministerial Conference, composed of representatives of all WTO members, which is required to meet at least every two years and which can take decisions on all matters under any of the multilateral trade agreements.
  • The General Council is composed of all WTO members and is required to report to the Ministerial Conference.

The General Council convenes in two particular forms:

  1. Dispute Settlement Body: To oversee the dispute settlement procedures.
  2. Trade Policy Review Body: To conduct regular reviews of the trade policies of individual WTO members.

The WTO and the United Nations (UN)

  • Although the WTO is not a UN specialized agency, it has maintained strong relations with the UN and its agencies since its establishment.
  • The WTO-UN relations are governed by the “Arrangements for Effective Cooperation with other Intergovernmental Organizations-Relations between the WTO and the United Nations” signed on 15 November 1995.
  • The WTO Director General participates to the Chief Executive Board which is the organ of coordination within the UN system.

Issues related to the WTO

  • The US has paralysed the World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body by stalling the selection process. Click here to read more about the USA’s blocking of appointments to the Appellate Body.
  • There is a problem in WTO negotiations as there is no agreed definition of what constitutes a developed or developing country at the WTO.
  • China’s state-owned enterprises present a major challenge to the free-market global trading system and the rulebook of the WTO is inadequate for addressing these challenges.
  • While the global trade landscape has changed significantly over the past 25 years, WTO rules have not kept pace.
  • Agreement on agriculture is facing issues due to food security and development requirements for developing countries like India.

-Source: The Hindu


COAL BURNING RESPONSIBLE FOR POLLUTION IN INDIA: IEACCC

Context:

Coal-based thermal power stations with no pollution control technology are responsible for the heavy air pollution in India according to a study by the International Energy Agency’s Clean Coal Centre (IEACCC).

Relevance:

GS-II: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the IEACCC Study
  2. Recommendations by the IEACCC

Highlights of the IEACCC Study

  • Coal-based thermal power stations with no pollution control technology are responsible for over half sulphur dioxide (SO2), 30 per cent oxides of nitrogen (NOx), about 20 per cent particulate matter (PM), among other man-made emissions in the country.
  • Unabated burning of coal in thermal power stations and a delay in implementation of latest carbon capture storage technology are among major reasons of air pollution in India.
  • Transport and other industrial sectors stand second to coal-based thermal power stations as a contributor to air pollution.

The study noted that the newest advanced technology plants in India — such as Mundra and Sassan in Gujarat — are struggling financially, causing stakeholders to lose confidence in investing in cleaner and advanced technology.

The Union government’s long-term strategy underlines the nationally determined contributions submitted as a part of the Paris Agreement 2015, which mention the Indian government’s position to run cleaner advance technology. And yet, it is legally feasible for businesses in India to use less efficient technologies to burn coal.

The current energy efficiency schemes, including performance and achieve trade scheme, efficiency standards scheme and carbon pricing schemes, are not ambitious enough to drive significant improvement.

Recommendations by the IEACCC

  • The IEACCC said that adopting carbon-capture storage (CCUS) is important to reduce emissions. Carbon-capture storage (CCUS) is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide, transporting it to a storage site and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere.
  • The IEACCC recommended implementation of emission norms at coal-based thermal power stations (TPP) at the earliest.
  • The IEACCC study recommended retirement of old coal-fired power stations to limit pollution and improve the fleet efficiency. Retirement of inefficient fleet and adoption of clean coal technology can only bring in a noticeable change.
  • It was techno-economically possible to meet the norms if there were no further delay or dilution.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

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