India to pitch for permanent solution to food security issue at WTO

India to pitch for permanent solution to food security issue at WTO

India wants the multi-lateral body to deliberate on pending issues of the Doha Round and deliverables of the Bali package

Source: PTI 

  Backed by several developing countries, India will strongly pitch for finding a permanent solution to the food security issue and a mechanism to protect poor farmers from surge in imports at the WTO meeting of 160 trade ministers', beginning in Nairobi on Tuesday. During the four-day meet, India wants the multi-lateral body to deliberate on pending issues of the Doha Round and deliverables of the Bali package, including issues of the least developed countries. “Focus of the deliberations will include issues relating to continuance of the Doha negotiating mandate; finding a permanent solution to the issue of public stock holding for food security; special safeguard measures,” an official said. The negotiations, launched at the Qatari capital in 2001 and known as the Doha Round, has missed several deadlines for conclusion due to wide differences over the issue of giving protection to poor farmers and the extent to open the markets for industrial goods. India has reiterated that members have spent over a decade on the Doha Round and it should not be kept hanging. “I am going with an open mind and positive approach. If everybody has agreed on something in Bali, it should be our duty to deliver on that. And permanent solution was part of that Bali package,” Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said. However, experts are a little apprehensive about the positive outcome from this meeting as the rich nations are keen to abandon old issues and negotiate new matters such as government procurement and investments. “We will face tremendous pressure to hold our ground on the Doha issues including the special safeguard mechanism. But this is very important for livelihood of our poor farmers,” Biswajit Dhar, a professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said. On the other hand, in a letter to WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has encouraged WTO members to show their political will and necessary flexibilities to deliver a successful outcome. Azevedo too has urged WTO members to show the flexibility and political will for a successful Ministerial Conference. Sitharaman is leading the high-level Indian delegation in Nairobi. She was accompanied by senior officials of the ministry. The G-33 group, which includes India and Indonesia, has been at the forefront in demanding the “special safeguard mechanism” which provided the right to deal with the sudden surge in imports. Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia has said that as many as 100 countries including the G33, Africa Group, Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of Countries have articulated their views to preserve the Doha Round. The Doha Round of negotiations launched in 2001 have remained stalled since July 2008 due to differences between the rich and the developing nations mainly over the issue of subsidy being given to farmers. India has clearly expressed that the Doha mandate should not be re-opened; nor should there be any cherry-picking of issues from the Doha Development Agenda or introduction of new issues that only served the commercial interests of a few developed countries. For a permanent solution, India had proposed either amending the formula to calculate the food subsidy cap of 10%, which is based on the reference price of 1986-88, or allowing such schemes outside the purview of subsidy caps.] If no solution is found by the agreed deadline of December 31 this year, the peace clause will continue till the time a solution is found. Under the special safeguard mechanism (SSM), the developed countries want developing nations including India to agree to the SSM instrument when imports surge on a sustained basis by 40% over the previous year, while India insisted that the mechanism can come into play if imports rise by about 10% over the previous year. The Nairobi Ministerial Conference will be the first WTO meet taking place in Africa since the world trade body was created.  

December 14, 2015  | 03:25pm IST

The Dollar Business Bureau - Dec 14, 2015 12:00 IST