in 21st Century
There was a startling report in the newspapers the other day about a demand raised that Tirupur laddoos should be given WTO’s Geographical Indicator status so as to preserve its uniqueness. Well, Tirupur laddoos are associated with – are in fact prasada (sign of appeasement) of – a popular god of those parts and these laddoos are perhaps enjoying a big market. Perhaps the Great Indian Diaspora, questing for a nativity they have fled for good economic reasons, are yearning for these laddoos and are willing pay top dollar/ sterling earned at their Diaspora.
And who knows, some Enterprising Indians are perhaps even running a hawala racket of laddoos : since the FDAs of USA/Europe would not allow actual laddoos filled with 3rd world bacteria to cross borders, creative commerce will do the trick. There will be FDA approved local manufacture in USA/Europe of laddoos; all you have to do is to pay through credit card on the Internet , or use Western Union, to the Tirupur god`s account in India (a must this – “we have no branches”) and fax the counterfoil/ receipt to your local Wal-Mart and collect your blessed laddoos – or even have them home delivered.
But – and here is the catch – some pale -faced Americans/ Europeans, seeing profit in these recessionary Obama Times, might invoke an America Sena philosophy and banish dark – skinned outsiders from the business of manufacturing Tirupur laddoos on American/ European soil. Hence, these laddoos should be registered with the WTO under Geographical Indicators. See ?
Good god ! But the newspaper report also said that the demand had been “shot down”. A blessing.
Funny business, the arcana of the World Trade Organisation regime. First, DNA of WTO itself, the last Bretton Woodsian spawn : there has to be world trade, because trade is a Good Thing ; and trade must be free, because un-free trade upsets equations of value of goods; but trade is – for the traders – all about taking due and undue advantage off the trading partner, so there must be some rules of trading.
Sounds Kosher ? This is the barest theorem of the pale-faced’s commercial mind, which truly first discovered perils and premiums of trade when its palate, long dulled by Dark-Age’s piety and popery, was existentially jolted into renaissance by spices of the Orient ! The medieval sagas of knavery and trickery of Genoa, Lyons and Madrid and such like has been serialized by history till today’s WTO “agreements”. Ah, the gods of trade, as yet unnamed!
The devil is, as usual, in the details – while gods prefer to dwell in abstractions. Seeing the value of the nice perfume imparted to rice grains by the demure local goddess, Basmati,originally resident of the small valleys around Dehradun, Uttar Pradesh, India, some redneck, federally subsidized farmer of Texas, with 100,000 hectares of agricultural land might use Basmati seeds and out-produce and undercut (using US Govt. subsidies) Indian and Pakistani rice crops – and the poor godess might eventually have to be greencarded into America as Kasmati.
Horror ! Not about just brand values, this is a Matter of National Culture and Heritage ! So, Geographical Indicators. Basmati is geographical indicated in India by WTO – although Pakistan remains protesting and contesting, as usual .
Of course, this Basmati business is just a fig leaf to showcase — for professors and PROs – that see , how fair and even- handed the pale faced nations are really ! The backroom hardballing is overwhelmingly about a weak European rearguard against the American patent blitzkrieg since GATT. Since most modern industrial products were first made in USA , their pasts and futures have been patented to overkill . There was a WTO threat from America to even the Swiss Army Knife !
So Europe retaliated saying that Californian or Australian bubbly cannot be called Champagne, or cheese from Argentina cannot be called Camembert, or the Chilean red cannot be called Bordeaux and so on. These are inalienable, geographically indicated out of trade negotiations . All this being small change, America had shrugged . Our Tirupur laddoo was hoping to join this Byzantine calculus. Well, no harm trying; after all this is what Globalisation is all about – not distinguishing between man and beast.
The pale-faced’s WTO redux is brazen in its projected innocence, as usual. It is of course trying to abuse history – by calling it geography. The province of Champagne, for example, has its own specific micro-ecology of soil, water, weather, microbes, etc. – like any other province in the world – to impart specific taste to its wine. Okay. But where and when did it discover grapes ? In ancient times ? From Greece ? From Lebanon? Who can be said to own grapes ?
Further, tobacco was perhaps started by Turkey and potato by Iraq, tomato by Mexico, spices by India, Indonesia, etc. Who owns these originally ? What are their Geographical Indications ? This is bizarre, of course. When and how did Turkey become Turkey, India become India, France become France ?
Landmasses amidst oceans of this planet have no original names, can have no fundamental title. Otherwise, America will have to pay hefty royalties to Red Indians, Australia to its original inhabitants; and since human beings originated in Olduvai, Ethiopia the whole world will have to pay to Ethiopia royalty on every baby born. No wonder Byzantium collapsed. So will WTO.
But notwithstanding the usual suspect of filthy capitalist greed, there is more to it – this need for uniqueness, for accurate naming. Consider the ancient, independent, self- sufficient villages of India. A village has a Ram Kumar Sharma and a Shyam Kumar Sharma. Its neighboring village will also have a Ram Kumar Sharma and Shyam Kumar Sharma. Sine the villages rarely mingle, this naming will work, except on the annual haat-fair , when one will be known as Ram Kumar of Aampur and the other, Ram Kumar of Jampur.
A bit higher the integration, and place names get added to personal names, like ABCD Rao, like Jesus of Nazareth , like Zorba the Greek. With still higher integration a unique domain name will be needed. Highest, i.e. universal the integration,even domain names will not suffice, and 12-digit, or 20-digit numbers will be needed to identify a person. Here is the conundrum then – the dialectic : more integrated the world becomes, more uniqueness is necessary for each person. Maybe this is the next paradigmatic lesson to be learnt , in the 21st century, both by socialism and capitalism.