Poverty is not new to India, nor is the quest for development. What is radically new is the link between poverty, development and trade. Half a century ago virtually all developing countries, across the political spectrum from communist China, to rightwing military dictatorships and populist regimes such as Argentina under Juan Perón, to the handful of democracies like India, adopted state command and control economic structures. These included import-substitution and high tariff barriers; the prevailing theories underlying such policies held that trade for developing countries resulted in dependence, poverty and underdevelopment.
Some of the countries were members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) but since it was only an ‘agreement’ – the general agreement to talk and talk as cynics described it – and therefore had no powers of compulsion, membership was possible without having to worry about sticking to its principles.