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

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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.

would be difficult. Highlighting the condition of subsistence farmers, he said trade agreement must be in harmony with shared commitments of eliminating hunger and ensuring the right to food.

Later in the evening, Sharma had another meeting with WTO director general Roberto Azevedo and Indonesian trade minister Gita Wirjawan to try to break the stalemate. Azevedo is expected to hold similar meetings with other dissenting nations over the next few days.

Most countries seemed keen to go ahead with the Bali package as it would restore the credibility of the WTO and take forward the stalled Doha Round of trade talks. Even the WTO chair Indonesia is understood to have softened its stance as it is hosting the talks and is keen to reach an outcome. But with the US and EU continuing with their stance, talks of a consensus at Bali seemed distant.

China’s minister for commerce urged member nations for an early harvest and said, “confidence, commitment and change are essential for the deal.” He also announced that China would increase imports to $10 trillion over the next few years.

The US too underlined that “no country has got all it wanted and even the US has made its fair share of compromise. EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said that “both metaphorically and physically, we have come too far to fail.” In a press briefing, Gucht said: “India has to show flexibility. If each one sticks to its own solution, then there will be no agreement, even if a permanent solution is not possible in Bali.”

Developing countries, with limited financial means, are unable to use the provision on direct food aid. India, for instance, acquire food products at minimum support prices to farmers, hold the stocks and release it at administered prices to the target population. Under the AoA, the acquisition price (MSP) has to remain below the external reference price (ERP) determined on the basis of prices prevailing during 1986-88. The difference between the acquisition price (the applied administered price) in a particular year multiplied by the quantity acquired counts towards the Amber Box of trade-distorting subsidies which are capped at 10% of value of production. New Delhi's concern is if this ceiling is not raised, then, at its present level and given the food security law, India may cross the same in 3-4 years.

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