India locks horns with rich nations in WTO ‘green room’

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on November 17, 2021

Green room discussions are informal talks at the WTO between key members who hold conflicting interests and views

Country fighting for permanent solution on public stock holding, special safeguard mechanism to curb harmful farm imports

India is grappling with the challenge of steering the on-going agriculture negotiations at the WTO for a fair deal for developing nations as it is one of just eight members in the ‘green room’ working on narrowing differences on key issues such as public stock holding and special safeguards against imports prior to the 12th Ministerial Conference this month-end, a source has said.

“The other seven countries involved in the ‘green room’ discussions on farm issues, that also include disciplining domestic support and export restrictions, are the US, the EU, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Indonesia and China,” the source close to the development told BusinessLine.

Green room discussions are informal talks at the WTO between key members who hold conflicting interests and views that hold back an agreement. If these members are able to sort out the differences and agree on a revised draft, it is presented to other members for their comments and approval

Focus areas

“Getting an agreement on a permanent solution for public stock holding and a special safeguard mechanism against import surges without too many notification requirements is on top of India’s agenda. But it is facing tremendous opposition from developed nations such as the EU, the US, Japan and Australia,” the source said.

The MC12, scheduled in Geneva on November 30-December 3, will be attended by Trade Ministers of member countries, including Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal. Permanent solution for public stock holding is an unmet mandate from 2013, pointed out Ranja Sengupta from Third World Network . “The Covid-19 pandemic has made it even more urgent to seal this outcome as many developing countries and LDCs have been extensively using public stock holding programmes for supporting farmers’ livelihoods,” according to Sengupta.

India and Indonesia, as part of the G-33 coalition of developing nations in agriculture, had submitted a paper demanding a permanent solution to the problem of public stock holding so that they can provide unlimited domestic subsidies on price support given to farmers.

‘Simplifying the process’

The ’peace clause’ agreed to at the Bali Ministerial in 2013 allows India and other developing countries to provide Minimum Support Prices beyond the prescribed ceiling of 10 per cent of production value without being penalised, but the clause has several limitations. The user has to provide numerous statistics, often difficult to procure, and also satisfy ambiguous conditions such as not affecting food security of another country.

“India wants a permanent solution that not only minimises notification requirements but also covers all crops, including non-traditional ones, and new programmes. This is in the interest of most developing countries that are still developing their programmes,” the source said.

Published on November 16, 2021

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