The US has demanded that India should immediately provide a date for permanent termination of the quantitative restrictions applicable to pulses imports, especially yellow beans. It has also sought all information on public stockholding that New Delhi is yet to submit to the WTO, an official tracking the matter said.

Russia, Canada, the EU, Australia and Ukraine, too, questioned India on the quantitative restrictions on pulses and its public stockpiling, at a recent meeting of the Committee on Agriculture in Geneva, a Geneva-based trade official told BusinessLine . “In its defence, India said that the quantitative restriction on yellow beans were temporary and were only restrictive and not prohibitive. On the required data for stock holding, it said that it is still collecting information at the sub-national level,” the official said.

The countries had earlier asked India to explain how the import restrictions were consistent with WTO rules as the multilateral body did not allow quantitative restrictions on exports and imports except under exceptional circumstances.

India’s quantitative restrictions on import of pulses, introduced in 2017 and 2018, were to expire on March 31, 2020, but India then indicated these ‘temporary’ measures, would be extended for 2021-22 , as per a representation made by exporting nations at the WTO earlier this year.

However, on May 15, 2021, India decided to permit import (without quota) of tur, urad, and moong temporarily till October 31, 2021. “Now that the specified period is about to end, other WTO members want India to permanently terminate the quantitative restrictions so that there is no element of uncertainty. As the quantitative restrictions on yellow beans were not relaxed in May 2021, as in the case of the other pulses, there is more stress on removal of import quotas for this particular variety,” the official added.

On public stock holding for which India needs to submit all relevant data so as not to face a challenge at the WTO in case the prescribed limits are breached (under the Peace Clause), New Delhi said it is still collecting the data of the sub-national level support provided, including for rice and wheat, the official pointed out. “The US said that India should clearly state all measures that were being taken to collect information on support measures that have so far not been included in its various domestic support notifications,” the official said.

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The EU, too, stressed that information on public stock holding was especially important as India was a proponent of reforming rules on public stockholding at the WTO.

Brazil also intervened and said India's compliance with the 2015 Ministerial Decision on public stockholding for food security purposes (including the Peace Clause) could be determined only with more information on stockholding programmes.

New Delhi has been pushing for a permanent solution to the problem of public stockholding at the WTO as under the present rules its expenditure on its MSP programmes falls under the category of trade distorting subsidy to be capped at 10 per cent of total value of production. India wants this cap to go to protect the livelihood of its farmers and the poor.

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