Centre hopeful WTO members will accept solution to tangle over food security
Following recent engagements at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) headquarters in Geneva with prominent members of the world body, including the US, India on Tuesday indicated that a solution is in sight to end the impasse on the implementation of the Bali package to liberalise global trade. India’s demand for a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding on food security had led to the WTO missing a deadline on the trade facilitation agreement — a key element of the package.
“Those who said the lights at the WTO will be flipped off are wrong. Lights are on and it will continue to stay on,” an official in the know of the recent developments said.
“India is hopeful that things will be sorted out soon. The country is hopeful that WTO membership will respect India’s position and will accept the solution which is under discussion,” the official said, hinting that this week’s G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, is expected to witness some positive announcements in this regard.
Commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said on Sunday that the US and the European Union now are better appreciating India’s stance on food security as well as the importance of a course correction to reach a solution soon.
“I expect that there will be a greater engagement and some solution will come out of it which will calm down everyone questioning whether or not the Bali agreement will be recognised or whether it will all come down,” she said, days ahead of the G-20 summit — where leaders of the world’s 20 major economies will, among other things, discuss ways to restore confidence in the multilateral trading system and the WTO.
India was not trying to undermine the trade facilitation agreement (TFA), the minister said, and termed the WTO’s Bali package (on public stockholding for food security in developing countries, trade facilitation and a package for least developed countries) imperfect.
“Government’s sovereign duty to protect its poor farmers is seen (by the developed world) as trade distorting. If the course correction has to happen, it has to happen now and that is what we (India) are demanding. We may not be waiting till 2017 to get what is due and what is not trade distorting,” she said, adding that India is committed to WTO as it believes in multilateralism as opposed to regionalism.
The Prime Minister’s Office had recently held a meeting with the commerce ministry on the WTO negotiations in the wake of the readiness shown by the US to discuss India’s concerns on food security. Although India is unlikely to retract from its tough stance on the issue, sources said, it is evaluating a proposal for “a perpetual peace clause” till a “permanent solution” is found on the issue.
A peace clause like this would ensure that developing countries like are not taken to world body’s dispute settlement panel even if their domestic support to farmers crosses the limits prescribed.
The Bali package had an interim ‘peace clause’ preventing WTO members from taking any developing country to the dispute settlement panel for violating the norms that the ‘trade distorting’ (agricultural) domestic support should not be over 10% of the total production. The package also said members should work on a permanent solution to reach agreement by December 2017.
India has since said it is not opposed to the TFA, but added that while members engaged seriously and with commitment on TFA to quickly resolve issues, the same enthusiasm and urgency was not shown on the issue of food security. The EU had earlier said a confirmation of the open-ended nature of the interim solution can most probably be achieved. Once the Bali package is amended to include such a perpetual peace clause, India will not then come in the way of signing the TFA, the sources said.
Bris-bane or boon?
The US and the EU now are better appreciating India’s stance on food security as well as the importance of a course correction to reach a solution soon
India had termed the Bali package (on public stockholding for food security in developing countries, TFA and a package for least developed countries) imperfect
India’s demand for a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding on food security had led to the WTO missing a deadline on the trade facilitation agreement — a key element of the package