WTO: Bali bash set for a crash as India sticks to guns on food stockpiling

Dec 05 2013, 08:48 IST
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Commerce Minister Anand Sharma talks with Canada's Minister of International Trade Ed Fast during the 9th Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Bali, Indonesia. (AP) Commerce Minister Anand Sharma talks with Canada's Minister of International Trade Ed Fast during the 9th Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Bali, Indonesia. (AP)
SummaryAnand Sharma claims the country was not isolated on concerns over food security.

Clouding the chances of a consensus on even the limited agenda of the World Trade Organisation’s Bali ministerial, India, concerned that its food security law could be hamstrung by the extant norm that developing countries' price-support-based food subsidy must not cross 10% of the value of farm output, toughened its stance on Wednesday.

While commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma claimed the country was not isolated on concerns over food security, highly-placed sources here said as many as 18 countries supported New Delhi’s position that the asymmetry in the Agreement on Agriculture should be corrected and in the interim, developing countries ought to have immunity from penalties.

But sources indicated that there was disagreement within the G-33 as well with prominent members including Brazil and Indonesia wanting to reach a consensus on the proposed Bali package over the next few days.

“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.

“If we (India) do not agree, the deal will not go through,” said an official source.

Earlier in the day, while addressing the plenary session of the WTO, Sharma had made it clear that India’s position on food security was non-negotiable even as others including the US, China and the EU said it’s 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,” Sharma said, adding the trade facilitation deal would also not get support. “We consider it premature to lend support to an inconclusive trade facilitation agreement.” He also made it clear that the proposed “peace clause” of four years was 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,” the minister said.

Qatar too wanted a review of the proposed deal at Bali, while G-33 members Brazil and Mexico raised concerns on agriculture issues but hedged it saying it was “essential” to reach a consensus.

“Reaching agreement on agriculture proposals is a necessary part of any early harvest. Food security is also an important part of our discussions,” Brazil’s foreign minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado said, still hoping for a consensus.

Sharma in his three-minute speech did not mince words and it seemed that a consensus without some compromise

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