Prabhu to strategise with key allies ahead of WTO meet

Amiti Sen Buenos Aires | Updated on January 09, 2018

Rob Davies, Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa

Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu

Will attend G-33 meet, hold bilaterals with South Africa

Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu will hold two crucial meetings on Saturday — a day before the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC 11) kicks off in Buenos Aires — to give a final shape to India’s negotiating strategy on the key issue of food security.

The Minister is scheduled to meet his South African counterpart Rob Davies and participate in a meeting of the G-33 alliance of countries led by Indonesia on December 9, a government official told BusinessLine.

“The meetings are extremely important as South Africa shares our concern about attempts being made by farm produce exporting countries to place riders on a permanent solution for procurement subsidies,” the official said. The G-33, on the other hand, is the platform from where India is fighting for its right to give adequate food security to its people, he added.

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 stock holding by 2017. Such subsidies, 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 the G-33 wants removed as part of the permanent solution.

“In the G-33 meeting on Saturday, members would strategise on how to push other members into agreeing to a permanent solution with less stringent transparency conditions than in the peace clause," the official pointed out.

The meeting between India and South Africa is likely to focus on, among other things, the proposal made by the EU and Brazil to link a permanent solution to disciplining of domestic subsidies, which both have objected to.

“The two Ministers are likely to discuss the strategy in case the EU is unwilling to move from its position during the Ministerial talks,” the official said.

India’s Ambassador to WTO JS Deepak reportedly said at a recent meeting in Geneva that any efforts to foster a linkage between public stock holding outcome and agricultural domestic support would have serious consequences, including jeopardising outcomes.

Apart from farm subsidies and public stock holding, other issues to be taken up at the MC 11 include disciplines on fisheries subsidies and rules on e-commerce.

Published on December 08, 2017

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