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India seeks postponement of trade deal as WTO dumps food security issue

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26 July 2014

India today suggested the postponement of the adoption of the Trade Facilitation Agreement till a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security is found. Towards this, it suggested a modification to the protocol since ''the Bali outcomes were negotiated as a package and must be concluded as such.''

Commerce minister Nirmala Sitaraman''Timelines are important but we cannot afford to act in haste in the WTO ignoring the concerns expressed by members,'' it pointed out.

India suggested the immediate establishment of an institutional mechanism such as a dedicated Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture to find a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security, with clear-cut procedures, timelines and outcomes under this institutional mechanism so as to arrive at a permanent solution by 31 December 2014. 

A similar approach must be adopted on all other elements of the Bali Package notably the LDC issues.

The progress of these accelerated discussions must be reviewed in October 2014 by the General Council.

If WTO members demonstrate the same energy and commitment on the other Bali issues as they have done on TF, we will not only be able to find a permanent solution on the issue of public stockholding for food security but will also be able to implement TF in the agreed timeframe as well as deliver favourable outcomes for LDCs.

Commerce minister Nirmala Sitaraman had on Friday made it clear that India will find it difficult to support new global customs rules without "an assurance and visible outcomes" that a permanent solution is being negotiated over its concerns about public food stockholdings,

Diplomats from the advanced agricultural countries of the 160-member World Trade Organisation were trying to push through a deal on "trade facilitation" on Thursday without considering the other proposals agreed to at the Bali Ministerial in December.

They claim it could add $1 trillion to the world economy and create 21 million jobs.

But India on Friday decided to opt out of a trade deal without a similar agreement on other issues that concern developing countries, including public stockholding of foodgrains for distribution among the poor.

India also flayed western criticism that India's stance created a credibility crisis at the WTO. India said far from it, the failure of the WTO to work in the interests of all its members and to deliver meaningfully on the ''development'' mandate of the Doha Development Round would pose a far more serious risk to its credibility than any other factor.

''In Bali we signalled to the rest of the world that the WTO is capable of delivering outcomes - an objective of strong systemic importance. Developing countries accepted the Bali package in good faith reassured by the renewed affirmation of commitment to the Doha Development Agenda and its development dimension.

''But our expectations, Mr Chairman, have been completely belied by the developments after the Bali Ministerial. As we have consistently pointed out, India is seriously concerned about the lack of progress on some of the Bali outcomes and minimal movement on the others. Although discussions on the DDA work programme - the timeline for which is December 2014 - may have started for the sake of form, we seem to be repeating our past mistakes. A clear will to engage in areas of interest to developing countries is conspicuously absent. To make matters worse, persistent efforts are being made to subvert the mandate by divesting it of its core elements.

India noted that while several meetings have taken place on some of the Bali issues, discussions on the Bali decision on public stockholding have not even commenced despite repeated requests by the G-33 and the proposals already on the table. Some of the LDC issues have been similarly left behind.

India demanded that a decision or at least a constructive engagement on issues that impact the livelihood of a very significant part of the global population be taken on the same timeframe as the trade facilitation agreement.

''Having signed on to the ministerial decisions in Bali, let there be no doubt about India's commitment to those decisions, including the Trade Facilitation Agreement. All we are asking is that the public stockholding issue as well as other decisions of Bali be taken forward in the same timeframe as Trade Facilitation,'' the statement read.

The issue relating to public stockholding is an agreed part of the 2008 text and represents a life and death situation for a number of developing countries and LDCs. There are already proposals on the table reiterated recently in a fresh submission by the G-33 on the basis of which discussion can begin immediately.

We believe this is a simple issue which can be addressed very quickly. This is important so that the millions of farmers and the poor families who depend on domestic food stocks do not have to live in constant fear. To jeopardise the food security of millions at the altar of a mere anomaly in the rules is unacceptable.

India is of the view that the Trade Facilitation Agreement must be implemented only as part of a single undertaking, including the permanent solution on food security.





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