Developing nations, including India, will make a strong pitch for a permanent solution to their concerns on subsidy limits placed on their public stockholding programmes at the WTO Senior Officials’ meeting scheduled next month, sources have said.

The meeting has been called by the WTO Secretariat, on October 23-24, to work out the agenda for WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference in February 2024.

“India has been calling for a permanent solution on calculation of its MSP subsidies, and the limits put on them by the WTO, as the programme is crucial for food security of the country. This is what the country will highlight at the WTO Vice Ministers meeting together with some other issues such as a long transition period for developing nations to curb fisheries subsidies and removal of moratorium on customs duties on e-commerce trade,” a source tracking the matter told businessline.

Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal is likely to represent India at the WTO Senior Officials’ meet, the source added.

The Africa Group and the G33 alliance of developing nations, of which India is a part, have all been pushing for a permanent solution on public stockholdings underlining the importance of food security especially in the light of the sufferings during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Facing repeated attacks from certain developed nations at the WTO which allege that India’s MSP programmes affect food security of other nations, India argued at a meeting on agriculture earlier this year that its public stockholding of food grain actually helped provide food security.

During Covid-19 disruptions, these stocks helped India feed (provide free foodgrains) to its 800 million plus vulnerable population, it said. 

WTO members have been specifically targetting India’s MSP programme for rice as its subsidies have breached the subsidy ceiling of 10 per cent for agriculture produce forcing the country to use the Bali ‘peace clause’. 

The peace clause allows developing countries to breach the subsidy ceiling without being dragged into dispute by members, for rice. However, it comes with tough notification requirements and conditions, all of which are difficult to follow.

“It is important to get a permanent solution as the peace clause is prone to being challenged. Nine countries, including the US, Australia, and Canada, had sought consultations with India over the use of the peace clause and have been seeking a lot of information,” the source said.