WTO meet: India rules out any compromise on food security

Dec 03 2013, 04:29 IST
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SummaryAhead of the WTO ministerial conference, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma is trying to drum up support for India

Ahead of the WTO ministerial conference, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma is trying to drum up support for India’s position on public stockholding and food security.

Sharma has also expressed disappointment that many developed countries were paying only “lip service” to other serious concerns on trade and export subsidies that are a part of the so-called Bali package.

“There have been two key disappointments at the G-20 — that on tariff rate quota (TRQ) and on export subsidies,” he said on Monday.

Trade ministers of 159 countries are set to meet for the Ninth WTO conference in Bali from Tuesday to give a shot at revival of the 12-year old Doha Round of global trade talks.

The WTO “package” at Bali includes proposals on TRQ administration, export competition, agriculture subsidies, streamlining trade facilitation and packages for the least developing countries.

The three-nation bloc of India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) is also slated to meet on Tuesday on the sidelines of the WTO talks.

Meanwhile, addressing the ministerial meeting of the G-20, Sharma expressed disappointment over the proposals for agri export competition issues and on TRQ administration, which he termed as “well below expectations”.

“On export competition, it is merely a political declaration, devoid of any substance. On TRQ, some developed countries can even benefit from a reverse S&D by opting out of the already weak commitment,” he said, stressing that the current impasse in the Doha Round is a matter of serious concern.

G-20 countries had in the WTO ministerial in Hong Kong in 2005 decided to eliminate export subsidies by 2013, but now plan to pursue it as a top priority only after the Bali negotiations.

The minister, who is heading India’s 30-member strong delegation at the Indonesian island, also spent the day trying to build consensus amongst developing nations on public stockholding of food grain.

Apart from India — which is in the midst of rolling out its ambitious Food Security Act — other countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Egypt, Brazil and a number of African countries also engage in public procurement programmes.  “It is difficult for us to accept an interim solution as it has been currently designed… we are committed to a constructive engagement for finding a lasting solution. But till such time that we reach there an interim solution which protects us from all forms of challenges must remain intact,” he said at a meeting of the G-33.

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