The three-day ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Nairobi, starting on Tuesday, could see some stormy sessions, with India toughening its stance on finding a permanent solution to the issue of food security by “formalising” the extant peace clause and a mechanism to protect farmers from an irrational surge in imports, despite reservations by developed countries.
Analysts said while finding some sort of assurance on the issue of procurement for the public distribution system could still be easier, the demand for safeguard mechanisms against spurt in imports will be extremely difficult to push through, given the stiff resistance from developed countries.
The Indian delegation, led by commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman, wants the WTO to focus on pending issues of the Doha Round and deliverables of the Bali package. Developed nations, however, seek to broaden the mandate of the ministerial by inserting new issues such as investment, competition and e-commerce, and are not keen on pursuing the Doha Development Agenda.
“The permanent peace clause that has been assured by developed countries on the issue of food security must be formally approved by the Nairobi ministerial. That’s what India and other developing nations want as a permanent solution. Currently, the peace clause is just an assurance and doesn’t prevent anybody from dragging India to the dispute settlement body should they object to India’s subsidy level in procurement,” said Sachin Chaturvedi, director general at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries.
Subsequent to the Bali ministerial, India managed to get a permanent peace clause against its stock holding of commodities for the public distribution system as sort of quid pro quo for its support to the trade facilitation agreement (TFA), which the developed had pushed hard. A peace clause means no WTO member can drag India to the dispute panel for offering more product-specific support to farmers through procurement of grains than stipulated under the WTO until a permanent solution to the issue is found.