The permanent solution to deal with the issue of public stock-holding of food needs to be better than the Bali ‘Peace Clause’, said senior government officials who are here to attend the 11th ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Articulating India’s position on various issues, the officials said that a lot has changed in the past two years, and it’s time that development should come to the centre-stage of agenda of the 164-member multi-lateral trade body. Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu will represent India at the four-day ministerial meeting which begins here tomorrow. The ministerial conference is the highest decision-making body of the WTO. Under the global trade norms, a WTO member country’s food subsidy bill should not breach the limit of 10 per cent of the value of production based on the reference price of 1986-88.
Apprehending that full implementation of food security programme may result in breach of the WTO cap, India has been seeking amendments in the formula to calculate the food subsidy cap. As an interim measure, the WTO members at the Bali ministerial meeting in December 2013 had agreed to put in place a mechanism popularly called the ‘Peace Clause’ and committed to negotiate an agreement for permanent solution at the 11th ministerial meeting at Buenos Aires.
Under the Peace Clause, WTO members agreed to refrain from challenging any breach in prescribe ceiling by a developing nation at the dispute settlement forum of the WTO. This clause will be there till a permanent solution is found to the food stockpiling issue. “The permanent solution ought to be better than the Peace Clause otherwise why developing nations would accept that” said a senior official. India would press for more transparency, easier operation guidelines and dilution of certain onerous conditions especially with regard to mandatory requirement of notifications as far as the public food procurement issue is concerned.
As regards fisheries subsidies issue, India will press for work programme so that a matured draft could be taken up for negotiations at future ministerial meetings. India, along with some other developing nations, has been pressing for special and differential treatment as it has to protect the interest and livelihood of small fishermen. The proposal on fisheries seeks to eliminate subsidies that contribute to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. It aimed at dealing with the problem of overfishing and preventing depletion of the marine stock. The fisheries issue is expected to make some headway during the ministerial as there is hardly any opposition to the high moralistic stand of preventing overfishing. However, the mechanism to deal with IUU fishing would pose problems as several countries do not have the wherewithal for regulation and reporting of fishing.
On the proposal of e-commerce, which many developed nations are keen to push, the officials said that they could be at best be referred to a technical committee and taken up by the ministerial once the issue becomes mature for negotiation. Among other things, the officials said, India will also press for reduction of farm subsidies by developed countries, facilitation of trade in services and resist attempts to investment facilitation lest it becomes investment protection restricting policy making space of the developing nations.