WTO agreement vindicates India’s stand on food security: Nirmala Sitharaman

29 Nov 2014


Commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitaraman on Friday expressed satisfaction at the conclusion of the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations that has taken on board India's concerns on the effects of the trade facilitation agreement on public holding of food stocks by developing and poor countries.

On 5 August 2014, India decided not to join the consensus in the WTO on the implementation of the trade facilitation agreement till its concerns relating to the implementation of other Bali ministerial decisions, in particular, the decision on public stock-holding for food security purposes, were addressed.

There was much criticism of this stand in the subsequent months but India stood firm. However, in the ensuing months, India has succeeded to win over support from other WTO members, including the US, to find a way forward, she pointed out.

On Thursday, the General Council of the WTO adopted unambiguous decisions on public stock-holding for food security purposes, trade facilitation agreement and on post-Bali work.

WTO has made it clear that under the new mechanism, WTO members will not challenge the public stock-holding programmes of developing country members for food security purposes and that this arrangement will be in place until a permanent solution regarding this issue has been agreed and adopted.

This effectively does away with the ambiguity of the limited period peace clause as well as guard against the possibility of lack of effective cover for public stock-holding for food security purposes after 2017.

For India, this would strengthens the safeguard available for continuing the minimum support price policy which is a lifeline for millions of low income, resource poor farmers. It is also critical for food security in India and in countries which have similar policies, the minister stated in Parliament.

Moreover, she said, the commitment to find a permanent solution on public stock-holding for food security purposes by 31 December 2015 on a best-endeavour basis, introduces a sense of urgency in the process and would encourage other developing countries also to join the effort in pushing for a permanent solution at the earliest.

Importantly, since the General Council has unequivocally agreed to delink the negotiations for a permanent solution on public stock-holding for food security purposes from the agriculture negotiations on other issues under the Doha Development Agenda, this would 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 to the food security issue.

As per the relevant provisions of the WTO Agreement, a General Council decision on these elements has the same legal status as a ministerial decision, she noted.

As per the Bali ministerial decision, the trade facilitation 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 its acceptance.


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