New Delhi | India has won a major victory at Geneva with the WTO accommodating its food security demands in a historic worldwide trade reform deal, which the government said was clinched without any conditions or concessions.
Making a suo moto statement today in Lok Sabha on the trade pact clinched at the WTO meeting at Geneva last night, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said besides accepting its concerns on public stockholding, the deal by the 160-member body allows India to continue with its policy to provide minimum support price to farmers.
We have accomplished this without any concessions, compromise or new conditions, she said, adding that the deal vindicates the principal stand India had taken on food security.
The agreement, she said, provides for continuing the minimum support price policy which is a lifeline for millions of our low income resource poor farmer. It is also critical for food security in India and in countries which have similar policies.
Stating that New Delhi stood firm on its food security concerns, she said it was able resolve differences with the US earlier this month and persuade it to accept India’s stand. This paved way for the WTO deal, which had been in limbo for nearly two decades.
As per the agreement reached yesterday, the WTO nations have committed to ease customs norms to facilitate trade and also agreed to extend the ‘peace clause’ till a permanent solution is found regarding its foodgrain stock piling.
This is the first major trade pact reached by WTO ever since it came into existence in 1995.
Sitharaman said India has been able to secure an outcome in the WTO that addresses its concerns. The General Council Decision on public stockholding for food security purposes is a new, unambiguous decision. It makes it clear that a mechanism, under which WTO members will not challenge the public stockholding programmes of developing country members for food security purposes…, she said.
The agreement on extension of ‘peace clause’ till perpetuity ensures the interest of the WTO membership in expeditiously working towards a permanent solution and protect developing countries including India from the risk of having to accept an unsuitable solution under the threat of a limited duration peace clause coming to an end, she added. Under the peace clause, a WTO member gets immunity against penalty for breaching the food subsidy cap.
As per the WTO norms, a developing nation can provide food subsidy of up to 10 per cent of the total farm output. The WTO members have agreed to engage in negotiations for a permanent solution through an intensified programme of work.
Sitharaman said the provision for dedicated sessions to find permanent solution to the issue in an accelerated time-frame for taking forward the negotiations will ensure that the WTO accords priority to this issue and works on it in a focused manner. It would, moreover, avert the danger that countries like India would have to make concessions in some other area of the agriculture negotiations, in order to achieve a permanent solution, she added.
Further, Sitharaman informed the Lok Sabha that the General Council has unequivocally agreed to delink the negotiations for a permanent solution on public stockholding from the agriculture talks on other issues under the Doha Round. This would ensure that the negotiations for a permanent solution would continue even if the negotiations on such other issues are delayed, she said, adding that the development in Geneva has ensured India’s concerns were heard, understood and addressed.
She said India was never alone or isolated, even though not many chose to or were in a position to speak up in support of India’s stand. On the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), the minister said the pact would automatically come into force if ratified by two-thirds of the WTO members. As per the Bali Ministerial decision, the TF protocol was to be open for acceptance by members until 31 July 2015. WTO members have now decided to leave this open-ended. This would enable them to complete their internal processes for acceptance, she said.
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