No trade facilitation pact without resolving food security issue: Govt

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on November 25, 2017 Published on July 03, 2014

Hardens stance, demands early solution to insulating MSP programme against WTO action

Hardening its stance in the ongoing talks at the World Trade Organisation, the BJP-led Government has said it will not support the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) being pushed by developed nation members, including the US, the EU and Australia, till its concerns on food security are addressed.

Under the new regime, the country’s stance at the international trade forum has changed markedly. “We are under no legal obligation to ratify the protocol for TFA by the July 31 deadline. We are not going to do it till our concerns are addressed,” a Commerce Ministry official said.

Under the Congress-led UPA regime, India had agreed to the TFA, which binds members to improving border infrastructure for smoother movement of goods, at the Bali Ministerial last December.

But it had done so as the commitment was part of a package deal that also directed members to find a permanent solution to India’s problem of funding its food security programme without breaching subsidy caps and attracting penalties.

Issue sidelined

“We are deeply concerned that the Ministerial decision on public stockholding for food security purposes is getting sidelined. Till there is more clarity on this issue and members’ concerns are satisfactorily addressed, it will not be prudent to finalise the Protocol of Amendment (for Trade Facilitation),” India’s representative to the WTO said in Geneva on Wednesday.

While members are ready to sign the TFA protocol this month-end, there has been no progress on finding a permanent solution to India’s problem of keeping its minimum support price (MSP) programme from being challenged at the WTO.

Lack of urgency

The next meeting of the Committee on Agriculture is scheduled only in November, indicating the lack of urgency among members to sort out the issue.

Although members had agreed in Bali to give India “interim relief” against disputes on breaching subsidy levels till a permanent solution was found, this comes with several obligations that would make it very difficult to use.

To get the waiver, not only will India be required to admit that it had breached subsidy caps and furnish data on farm production, food consumption and subsidies, the relief would be null and void if developed countries feel the subsidies were distorting global prices.

Published on July 03, 2014
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