Policy

WTO meet: Civil society urges govt to protect farmers, fishers, traders

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 09, 2018

“The WTO must move on India-China’s proposal on eliminating trade-distorting AMS by developed countries as more than 100 developing countries and LDCs are supporting it.”

Civil society organisations have come together to urge the government to protect the interests of small farmers’ and artisanal fishers’ at the forthcoming World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial meeting in Ministerial and not agree on a new work programme on e-commerce.

“At the Buenos Aires meeting, India needs to do more than just guard against unfavourable decisions. Developed countries would also try to launch a new work programme which would include issues such as e-commerce, investment facilitation and paring agriculture subsidies currently allowed to developing countries like India. The country needs to take a firm position against a work programme,” said out Biswajit Dhar, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, speaking at a press meet on what is at stake for India at the 11th Ministerial Meeting of the WTO.

The meet was jointly organised by co-organised by the Third World Network, Focus on the Global South and Forum Against FTAs, India.

“We are going to give a joint submission to the government soon putting down all the areas where the country needs to take a firm stand at the Ministerial meeting,” said Ranja Sengupta from TWN.

Peace clause

A primary area of concern is the attempt by developed countries to impose even harder terms on the permanent solution for allowing public stock holding subsidies than the already onerous conditions attached to the existing ‘peace clause’.

“The Right to Food (RTF) Campaign in India has repeatedly asked the government to ensure that a permanent solution has easier terms than the Peace Clause. Also new crops should be covered under the permanent solution,” said Madhuri from the RTF Campaign.

The government also needs to address the superstructure of the extra aggregate measurement of support (AMS) and the Green Box enjoyed by the rich countries, pointed out Yudhvir Singh of Bhartiya Kisan Union.

“The WTO must move on India-China’s proposal on eliminating trade-distorting AMS by developed countries as more than 100 developing countries and LDCs are supporting it,” he said.

Warning about the serious fall-outs of an agreement on e-commerce, Vijay Kumar Jain, Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal, said that the proposed rule on permanent removal of duties (moratorium on customs duties) on import of all digitised and digitisable products will hurt physical retailers.

“The foreign e-companies will get duty-free access to Indian markets whereas Indian retailers will have to sell products with duties on them,” he said.

“India should therefore stand by an absolute standstill on e-commerce at the WTO ministerial.

“E-commerce discussions can continue at the WTO in relevant committees as per the existing e-commerce work programme. No changes to it should be allowed,” said Parminder Singh from IT for Change.

Published on November 24, 2017

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