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India wants WTO to allow food export from public stock for international food aid, humanitarian purposes

India wants the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to allow exports of food grains from public stocks for international food aid and for humanitarian purposes, especially on government-to-government basis, an official said on Monday.

The current WTO norms do not permit a member country to export food grains from public stock holdings as they are subsidised grains.

India wants the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to allow exports of food grains from public stocks for international food aid and for humanitarian purposes, especially on government-to-government basis, an official said on Monday.

India is also not in favour of giving binding commitment under the WTO on supply of food grains to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) as it would restrict its policy space to deal with domestic food security concerns, the official said.

“At the WTO, India has been raising the issue that the exports from public stocks for the purposes on international food aid or for non-commercial humanitarian purposes, including on Government-to-Government basis should be allowed,” the official added.

The current WTO norms do not permit a member country to export food grains from public stock holdings as they are subsidised grains.

A group of about 70-80 countries, led by Singapore, is pushing member countries of the WTO to accept binding commitments of not extending export restrictions on the food grains procured by the WFP.

Some members, however, have voiced concerns regarding a blanket exemption for WFP food purchases due to domestic food security considerations.

“India is against taking any binding commitment, under the WTO, to provide blanket exemptions from export curbs for food purchases by the WFP as it would restrict India’s policy space to provide food grains on Government-to-Government basis to other needy and neighbouring countries,” the official added.

India is also of the view that if this exemption is given to the WFP, it should also be extended for Government-to-Government supplies.

“We should have the flexibility of providing to other countries on G2G basis,” the official added. The United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) works in over 120 countries and territories to supply life-saving food to people displaced by conflict or made destitute by disasters.

The issue would figure in the forthcoming meeting of the WTO in Geneva next month.

“India has been a significant contributor of the WFP over the years and it has lent extensive support to its immediate and distant neighbours with food supplies. However, the problems faced by the WFP are related to its funding and not procurement,” the official said.

Due to national food security concerns, the official added that India may not agree to exemptions for the WFP with otherwise has multiple options to explore food supplies,” the official added.

Under WTO norms, a member country can temporarily impose export restrictions or prohibitions to prevent or relieve critical shortages of food stuffs or other products essential to the country.

Further, India is emphasising that meaningful reform in agriculture must first seek to reduce disproportionately large subsidies of the developed countries and not further widen the asymmetries between rich and developing economies.

The US and European Union are not engaging in discussions on reducing domestic subsidies, the official said.

The 12th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation will take place from June 12-15 in Geneva. The Ministerial Conference is the highest decision making body of the 164-member WTO.

WTO formulate rules for global exports and imports and adjudicates disputes between two or more than two countries on trade-related issues.

In the 12th MC, issues which would figure prominently include proposed fisheries subsides agreement, WTO response to pandemic including patent waiver, WTO reforms, food security and e-commerce.

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