India won’t compromise on food security: Sharma

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SummaryCommerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said on Friday that India would not agree to any deal

Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said on Friday that India would not agree to any deal, which undermines its ability to implement the new food security law, at next week's WTO ministerial meet in Bali.

Sharma said that the proposed “peace clause” which requires the WTO members to exercise restraint in challenging the developing countries' “trade-distorting” subsidies beyond permissible level of 10% should not be time-bound and be available till a permanent solution is reached on the question of asymmetry of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). He, however, said India's public procurement of food is not meant for exports, attempting to allay the fears of the developed nations that these stocks could potentially distort the world markets.

“What we give to our poor people is our right and that is insulated in entirety from any multilateral negotiations or WTO negotiations. That is the sovereign space and for India it is sacrosanct and non-negotiable. Whatever public procurement we do is using public funds and that stock can't be released for global trade,” Sharma asserted. On Thursday, the Union Cabinet had cleared India's strategy for the Bali ministerial.

The ninth ministerial meet in Bali is scheduled for December 3-6 where 159 member countries of the WTO will discuss the five major issues of trade facilitation agreement, G-33's proposal of public stockholding, tariff rate quota administration, export competition and development issues of the least developed countries.

“It has been speculated that India has agreed to only four years protection under the peace clause but India's final position will be made clear in the ministerial statement. An interim solution means interim solution until a permanent solution is put in place,” Sharma said.

India and the G33 group of developing countries it belongs to, feel that there is an inherent imbalance in the AoA, which allows unlimited direct food aid (income support) that only the developed world could afford while constraining the developing countries' ability to provide subsidy for food support through the mechanism of state-administered procurement and release of grains.

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