Trade deal: WTO seeks early resolution

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi?s visit to the US…

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi?s visit to the United States beginning Friday, Tim Yeend, the chief of staff of WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo, on Thursday met officials in the PMO and the commerce ministry to resolve the WTO impasse.

In the meeting that lasted more than an hour, Yeend discussed ?all the possibilities and heard the Indian side so that an agreement can be reached as early as possible?, sources told The Indian Express.

The meeting assumes importance as it comes on the day when the Prime Minister left for the US visit between September 26 and 30.

The sources said that India has prepared a concrete proposal for ending the stalemate and the issue will be taken up during the meeting of Modi and US President Barack Obama.

India had in July categorically refused to ratify the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), that sought to streamline customs procedures, saying that though it supported the agreement, it will not adopt it until a permanent solution was found to its public food stock holding and subsidy concerns.

New Delhi had taken the view that the TFA should be implemented as a part of a single undertaking including the permanent solution on food security. The protocol was to be ratified by July 31.

Amending the WTO norms regarding stockpile of foodgrains is critical for India in order to implement its food security programme.

India has asked the WTO to amend the norms for calculating agriculture subsidies so that the country could continue to procure foodgrains from farmers at minimum support price and sell them to poor at cheaper rates without violating the norms.

Currently, the food subsidies are capped at 10 per cent of the total value of foodgrain production, taking the base year of 1986-88 into account.

India has asked to change the base year, factoring in the impact of inflation and currency movements over these years.

As such, India is also engaged with several countries to enlist support on the issue with an aim to conclude the Bali package at the earliest, a source said.

With the month-long vacation over, the work at the WTO has resumed and Azevedo has been meeting with member nations to cobble support.

Last December, during the ninth ministerial in Bali, WTO members had agreed on a package comprising an agreement on TFA, issues relating to agriculture and development.

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First published on: 26-09-2014 at 07:47 IST