India urges final solution to WTO food stockpiling issue

New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) Noting how protectionism in some developed nations is impacting the multilateral trading system, India has again urged WTO members to realise a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding for food security, the Indian Commerce Ministry said on Thursday.

“During her meeting with the Director General WTO, the Commerce and Industry Minister mentioned the kind of outcomes India would like to see at the upcoming Eleventh Ministerial Conference of the WTO (‘MC11’),” an official statement here said, following Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s just concluded visit to Geneva where she met with the World Trade Organisation Director General G. Roberto Azevedo.

“She particularly stressed that the MC11 outcomes must include a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes (PSH) on which there is a ministerial mandate,” it said.

“She urged DG, WTO, to follow up vigorously to support the efforts to reach finality on PSH and the agricultural Special Safeguard Mechanism.”

Sitharaman, the statement added, “stressed that any attempts at seeking outcomes on new issues such as e-commerce and investment facilitation should not be at the cost of other long pending issues on the agenda of the Doha Round”.

During a visit here earlier this year, Azevedo said the WTO has the mandate to find a permanent solution to the contentious issue of public stockpiling of food by the end of 2017.

“We have a mandate to find a final solution to the food stockholding issue by December, and hope to come up with a solution at the Ministerial Conference this year in Buenos Aires (Argentina),” Azevedo told reporters here.

A temporary solution to the issue reached in 2014 allowed signing of the WTO’s historic Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in goods.

“At the Bali ministerial, we found a temporary solution through the so-called Peace Clause, that will be in effect indefinitely till a permanent solution is found,” the Director General said.

“I would say that on food stockholding talks are at a more advanced stage and we have a mandate to conclude the negotiations by the end of the year,” he added.

Azevedo also said that a discussion paper on the issue had been presented by the G-33 countries, but “which has not evolved further”.

Following India’s agreement with the US on the issue in 2014, the Bali Ministerial Conference came up with the “Peace Clause” that permitted uninterrupted implementation of India’s food security programme indefinitely till a permanent solution is found by the multilateral trade system.

The WTO Agreement on Agricultural (AoA) subsidies allows only 10 per cent subsidy for most of the developing countries based on 1986-88 prices. Rich countries feel that the Food Security Bill exceeds this 10 per cent and would, thus, distort international trade.

India wants the base of calculating food subsidies updated to current price levels, taking into account inflation and currency movements.

–IANS

bc/vt

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