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Global trade deal seen 'very close', India makes World Trade Organisation sweat

Dec 06 2013, 14:12 IST
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Commerce Minister Anand Sharma arrives at the ninth World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference at Nusa Dua in Bali. (Reuters) Commerce Minister Anand Sharma arrives at the ninth World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference at Nusa Dua in Bali. (Reuters)
SummaryIndia has insisted it won't compromise on policy of subsidising food, putting it at odds with the US.

JUSTICE FOR THE POOR

India, whose government faces the risk of losing elections next year, says that its tough stance has drawn support from developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America, though the meeting's host, Indonesia, has pressed for it to soften its stand.

"We are trying to get justice for the poor people," Indian Trade Minister Anand Sharma told reporters as he entered the final day of the meeting.

Thursday's talks had stretched into the early hours of Friday without reaching any agreement.

Asked if there was a deal on the table, Sharma replied: "We are talking."

The meeting was set to end at 3.00 pm local time (0700 GMT) but can be extended.

India will next year fully implement a welfare programme to provide cheap food to 800 million people that it fears will contravene WTO rules curbing farm subsidies to 10 percent of production.

The programme, which relies on large-scale stockpiling and purchases at minimum prices, is a central plank of the government's bid to win a third term in office next year.

A proposal led by the United States offered to waive the 10 percent rule until 2017. But India has rejected it, demanding the exemptions continue indefinitely until a solution is found.

If talks were to fail, the WTO may see its role eroded by regional trade pacts now being negotiated, such as the U.S.-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and a U.S.-EU tie-up known as the TTP.

Ministers in the TPP are expected to meet in Singapore shortly after the WTO meeting in the hopes of reaching a free trade pact by the end of this year.

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