India's demand for a 'permanent solution' for public stock holding has been identified as a deliverable at the World Trade Organisation's Ministerial Conference (MC 11) starting in Buenos Aires on Sunday. But the country has said that only a solution better than the existing 'peace clause' will be acceptable.
"We are not ready to accept anything less appealing that the peace clause that we already negotiated in the earlier ministeriasl. A permanent solution needs to be better than that in terms of less onerous conditions. A solution without improvement is not acceptable to us," said a senior Indian official.
In the MC in Bali in 2013, India and other members of the G-33 group (with a large population dependent on agriculture) were promised a permanent solution to treating subsidies for public stockholding by 2017. Such subsidies on Minimum Support Price programmes, as per rules, are subject to a cap of 10 per cent of production value.
The peace clause, which protects countries against action from other members in case the cap is breached, comes with a number of onerous conditions that India wants removed as part of the permanent solution.
"We want the notification condition which states that a country needs to update information on all crop related data before seeking relief from subsidy cap to go," the official said. He added that it was impossible to meet as was demonstrated in the fact that only nine countries have managed to update notifications without a time lag so far.
In a recent informal meeting of the Committee on Agriculture (CoA) chairperson Stephen Ndun'gu Karau (Kenya) pointed out that public stock holding was an issue where an outcome at MC11 is possible. "That being said, some serious work will need to be done in Buenos Aires," he added.
Discussions on the permanent solution will take place in one of the five discussion groups which will hold negotiations on key issues at MC 11. The other discussion groups are on e-commerce, fisheries subsidies, development issues and services.
India would insist on a work programme for a favourable permanent solution after the MC 11, if it is not offered a satisfactory resolution during the meeting. "We are not ready to accept just anything that is doled out to us," he said.
The MC 11, which starts on Sunday evening, will conclude on December 13.
Informal group discussions have already started on the sidelines