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India refuses to trade food security at Bali meet

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Nusa Dua (Indonesia), Dec 4 :

Sticking to its position that food security was non-negotiable as it impacted four billion people worldwide and millions of farmers, India Wednesday rejected the subsidy proposal in its present form at the global trade talks here.

WTO“For India, food security is non-negotiable,” India’s Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said at the plenary session of the 9th Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), risking yet another failure of the talks that were kicked off in Doha in 2001.

“Governments of all developing nations have a legitimate obligation and moral commitment toward food and livelihood security of hundreds of millions of their hungry and poor,” the minister told the highest decision-making body of the consensus-based WTO.

“Public procurement at administered prices is often the only method of supporting farmers and building stocks for food security in developing countries. Need of public stockholding of food grains to ensure food security must be respected,” Sharma said.

“Dated WTO rules need to be corrected. The G33 proposal was mooted precisely for this.”

At the core of the draft text is the due restraining, or peace, clause on subsidies.

The Group of 33 developing countries, led by India, want the existing farm accord revised to allow them to exceed their subsidy levels beyond the cap of 10 percent of national output till such time a permanent solution is found.

The peace clause seeks to allow this but with a four-year cap.

“It (the text) is only temporary with no assurance of a permanent solution,” Sharma said. “It (the peace clause) must remain in force till we reach a negotiated permanent solution and provide adequate protection from all kinds of challenges.”

The issue is one of the key factors slowing the WTO’s Doha Round of talks that were started in Qatar in 2001, seeking to overhaul the world trading system by setting a global framework of rules and pulling down barriers.
(IANS)
However, protectionist disputes between rich and poor countries — as well as the WTO’s insistence that any accord be unanimous — has kept a deal elusive.

Sharma said India has constructively engaged in the Doha Round for the last 12 year with a strong development mandate and has cited the centrality of food security, livelihood security, and rural development in trade negotiations.

“None of these texts require the developed countries to make binding commitments for the benefit of developing countries. In contrast, developing countries would be required to undertake significant commitments in trade facilitation,” said the Indian minister.

“If this imbalance in the Bali package is not redressed, the world at large would accuse all of us of collectively making hollow promises and keeping the tank empty on development content.”