An organic analogy for South Asian trade

Non-tariff barriers are poisoning trade in the region

An organic analogy for South Asian trade
Almost a century ago, Emile Durkheim, a Renowned French Sociologist belonging to the Functionalist Paradigm, presented his Organic Analogy to establish a relationship between the human body and the society. Durkheim was of the view that a society and human body have the same operational mechanism ie society would be functioning in perfect harmony and order as long as its various organs (institutions) are performing their functions well just like a human body which is healthy and lively as long as its various organs are working in sync with each other and performing their individual task as well. No sooner any of the organs within the body malfunctions, the whole body starts taking effect gradually and a time comes when the life ends. Exactly the same is the case with the society.

Another such analogy can be made to understand the relationship between a biological process existing in a human body and the South Asian Intraregional Trade. There exists a symbiotic relationship in a human body, which is called Enzyme-Substrate relationship (Lock and Key Model). Enzymes are the catalysts which speed up any chemical reaction taking place in the body. For an enzyme to work properly, it has to fit in a particular substrate as both enzymes and the substrate have specific shapes to fit in each other. Every enzyme has its own substrate. Now when the poison, in any form, goes into a human body, it straightaway affects the enzyme-substrate relationship and making the enzyme losing its ability to fit in its substrate. The human body starts crumbling and finally the death takes place.

The negative relationship between the South Asian Intraregional Trade and the Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) is pretty much reflective of the scenario described above between the Enzyme- Substrate and the poison.

Let us take the example of trade in agriculture between India and Pakistan to substantiate our viewpoint based on above analogy. Agriculture is very important component in the economies of both India and Pakistan. While Pakistan has grown substantially in livestock production over the past few years, Indian agriculture has been dominated by the rise of cotton production that trebled in the last ten years since its adoption of biogenetic varieties. Moreover, the geographical and climatic diversity across the two countries is a major factor behind differences in variety and pattern of agriculture produce, creating considerable opportunities for trade. But perhaps the most important difference between the agriculture sectors of the two countries is the contrasting policy regime.

[quote]India's agriculture policy is interventionist, and agricultural produce is highly subsidized[/quote]

Indian agricultural policy is interventionist and agriculture produce is highly subsidized by the state. On the contrary, Pakistan’s agriculture sector is almost completely liberalized. Furthermore, the presence of non-tariff barriers (SPS and quarantine standards) in Indian agricultural policy is cited as a major reason for the low agricultural export from Pakistan. One can safely assume that a supplier is present on Pakistani side (enzyme) and a customer or recipient is present on the Indian side (substrate) and vice versa to speed up the economic growth of the two countries, but the NTBs (poison) are just not letting that happen at the first place, taking both of the countries towards a state of economic death gradually. Pakistan, being a smaller country and economy is obviously at a greater disadvantage. The suppliers on Pakistani side don’t even think of sending something across when they know that they would be faced with a particular NTB for a particular product, let alone initiating the process of export and go into the whole process. Obviously no wise person would tend to take the poison with its own hands.

Pakistan and India are the main players in making or breaking the politico-economic harmony in the SAARC region and liberalization of trade between these two countries would not only ameliorate the socio-economic conditions of major chunk of the overall South Asian populace, but also serve as a good omen for the other smaller nations in this region. It would boost the confidence of these smaller nations, who are directly or indirectly involved with the political and economic stability in India and Pakistan.

So, one may deduce that the NTBs are the poison for the South Asian regional trade and the stakeholders involved the regional trade have started taking this issue very seriously by raising it on every possible forum so as to make the people in general and trading community in particular aware of their negative outcomes.

The writer is a Section Officer in the Ministry of Commerce