India’s concerns for food security, protecting fishers will be heard: WTO

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on October 23, 2021

The country’s leadership is important for securing a good outcome at WTO Ministerial Conference next month, said Director General Iweala

WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said that India’s concerns towards protecting its food security and getting a fair deal at the ongoing negotiations on elimination of fisheries subsidies deserved to be heard and will be heard.

“India has a strong voice at the WTO and its leadership is important for a good outcome at the forthcoming 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the multilateral trade body,” the DG said interacting with select media in New Delhi on Friday.

Iweala met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday and Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal twice during her on-going three-day visit. “I think he (Prime Minister Modi) is a true believer in multilateralism. I look forward to his support at the WTO,” she said. WTO MC12 is scheduled to begin in Geneva on November 30.

On India’s insistence on a fair negotiating text in the area of fisheries subsidies that takes into account its demand for protecting its vulnerable fishing community, Iweala said that its concerns were being heard.

“Even in Geneva, the chair of the negotiations Ambassador Santiago Wills has been reaching out to India’s Ambassador to the WTO to understand new proposals from India...And members need to negotiate amongst themselves. That’s how it works. You have to persuade other members. We will try to be as supportive as possible. India deserves to be heard and it will be heard. And then we will try to negotiate,” she said.

India’s demand

India has sought a timeframe of at least 25 years to continue its subsidy programmes to help its fisheries sector grow. New Delhi also wants rich countries engaging in deep sea fishing using highly mechanised ships must do away with their subsidies.

On India’s demand for a permanent solution on public stock holding that will allow it to grow its MSP programme without worrying about breaching limits, the DG said that India’s food security concerns were totally understandable. “India is a large country and it is not surprising that you will be concerned about food security issues. I think members should work hard to engage with India on food security concerns. Just like fisheries, I can’t guarantee the outcome, but there is a willingness to push,” she said.

The DG said that she was working hard to ensure that the voices of both developing countries and developed nations are heard and there is a balance. “Many believe that only developed country voices are heard and not developing countries. I wanted to make sure that in my time developing countries will also be heard. That is very important,” she said.

Published on October 22, 2021

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