Food security first, then trade pact: India

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on November 25, 2017

Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce and Industry Minister

Permanent solution critical so that farmers and the poor do not have to live in fear: Govt

Taking a firm position, India has said that it will support a trade facilitation pact at the World Trade Organization (WTO) only as a package deal that includes a permanent solution to its food security concerns.

The tough posture will delay ratification of the trade facilitation deal that was to be finalised by July 31, as per the agreement reached in the WTO meeting in Bali last December.

A trade facilitation agreement would obligate all member states to upgrade their border infrastructure for smoother movement of goods.

New Delhi says that as there has been no progress on finding a permanent solution to its problem of procuring foodgrain and funding food-aid programmes without breaching subsidy limits (also agreed in Bali), linking the two was necessary.

‘No standalone deals’

“We are very much within the framework of the Doha Development Agenda in our demand for a single undertaking. Bali is a package, you can’t have standalone deals on it,” Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told BusinessLine.

In its statement at the WTO General Council meeting on Friday evening, India said that a single undertaking and permanent solution was important so that millions of farmers and the poor families who depend on domestic food stocks do not have to live in constant fear.

India wants the WTO to convene special sessions to work out a permanent solution. It wants its subsidies for food procurement to be excluded from the category of trade distorting subsidies, and thus not subject to any caps (currently 10 per cent of agricultural production).

Alternatively, it wants the base year for calculating food subsidies changed from 1986 to the present.

“We want a review of progress in the special session meetings, in October. By December, the WTO should be able to come up with a permanent solution,” Sitharaman said.

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Published on July 25, 2014
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