India has warned that a multilateral agreement on facilitating trade at the World Trade Organisation through mandatory measures like time-bound clearance, better infrastructure and less documentation cannot be reached without a concurrent pact on relaxing food subsidy limits to let developing countries meet their food security commitments.

“If the G-33 group of developing countries’ proposal on food security does not move forward, the trade facilitation Agreement (pushed by developed countries) will not happen,” said Rajiv Kher, India’s chief negotiator at the WTO, at an industry consultation co-organised by the CII on India’s international trade strategy.

The Commerce Department is seeking inputs from the industry on what India’s strategy should be at the WTO ministerial meet scheduled in Bali in December where member countries would try to strike a deal on a small basket of issues.

Although the on-going Doha round of WTO talks launched in 2001 remains dead-locked, members are hopeful that a package of issues including trade facilitation, food security and measures for aiding LDCs can be agreed upon in Doha.

Kher said while India was not opposed to a trade facilitation Agreement, developing countries were looking for a balance both within the agreement and also outside through an agreement on food security measures.

While the draft text of the trade facilitation pact needs to take into consideration the resources available with countries to take measures to improve infrastructure, more weight needs to be given to concerns of developing countries like India that are more interested in facilitating exports than imports, Kher said.

India and the G-33 group of developing country’s proposal to amend the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture to allow them to spend on public stock holding and food aid beyond stipulated subsidy limits will ensure that they are not penalised if they breach existing limits.

“Our proposal serves the dual purpose of buying from resource poor farmers and providing food security to our people. Since the US and the EU are continuing to give out billions in the form of farm subsidies that they had committed to do away with in the Doha round, our demand is totally justified,” Kher added.