On the second day of the WTO ministerial conference in Bali, an unusually aggressive India toughened its stance on holding on to its food subsidy and public procurement levels with commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma claiming the country is not isolated. He said India is unhappy with the proposed trade facilitation pact.
“We have some principles and convictions, we don’t compromise on that,” Sharma said after a specially convened meeting of trade ministers by WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo.
Sources said that as many as 25 countries supported India’s stand on food security and stock holding limits in the three-hour long meeting by the WTO chief. “If we do not agree, nothing gets agreed upon,” said the source.
But in a curious turn of events, while formerly close allies like Indonesia, which is hosting the summit, have chosen to break away, India has found new friends in many of the African and South American countries including Egypt, Jamaica and Argentina.
With two days left to go, the differences at the ninth ministerial largely boil down to that between India and the US on the extent of food subsidy. While an informal meeting between the two fell through, a US source said, “no country has got all it wanted and even the US has made its fair share of compromise”. The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states are understood to also have held meetings to discuss their stand. “There is a lot of dissatisfaction … a whole continent seems to be unhappy,” said another source.
Earlier in the day, addressing the plenary session of the WTO, Sharma made it clear that India’s position on food security is non-negotiable even as others including the US, China and the European Union called it a “now or never” moment for the WTO and sought to arrive at a consensus on the Bali package.
“Historical imbalances in trade rules must be corrected to ensure a rule based, fair and equitable order,” he said, adding that the trade facilitation deal would also not get support: “We consider it premature to lend support to an inconclusive trade facilitation agreement.” He also stressed the proposed “peace clause” of four years is not acceptable. “It must remain in force till we are able to agree on a lasting solution and provide adequate protection from all kinds of challenge,” he said.
But India has not been able