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A few WTO nations can't go ahead without solving food issue: Sitharaman

PTI 10 Nov 2014, 9:19:16 AM IST

New Delhi: India made it clear that a few nations cannot move ahead with WTO trade pact without resolving the crucial food security issue and the matter needs consensus.

WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo recently said some members were seeking implementation of the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) as a plurilateral pact as part of the three alternatives to end the impasse over food security.

"Decisions are to be taken on a consensus basis. You are not going to isolate any one decision or any one country and say Oh my God, you are not agreeing, forget it you can be where you are, we are moving ahead, (it ) cannot happen. Nothing is agreed till everything is agreed is a principle which drives the WTO. How could you then isolate trade facilitation...all of us want to have trade facilitation. How could you just prioritise that," Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said here.
India is not "obstructionist" and is only asking the WTO to follow the principle that 'nothing is agreed till everything is agreed', she said at India Global Forum.

India had made it clear that it would not ratify the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), a pact that eases global custom norms, until a permanent solution was found on the food subsidy issue.

Sitharaman said since the Uruguay Round of WTO, subsidies to  farmers given by the US and the EU were never came on the table for discussion.

"...some subsidies are being given and they are never called subsidies and never brought on the table," she said, adding that "there was a distortion and an imperfection in the Bali agreement and that imperfection hurts our duty as a government which has to take care of its people".

The minister said that India did not want to re-negotiate the whole thing again, but the WTO should understand the case which New Delhi is presenting.

"We are with you on the TFA, we want to go ahead on that, but be sure that you understand the case which we are bringing in because otherwise we have western economies also come back and lecture us on 'Oh starving millions in India and government does not take care of them'. No, we want no such lectures, we will take care of starving Indians. But therefore please extend the peace clause and find us a permanent solution. Do not make us wait till 2017. These are legitimate demands," she added.

India had asked WTO to amend the norms for calculating agri subsidies so that the country could continue to procure foodgrains from farmers at minimum support price and sell them to poor at cheaper rates without violating the WTO norms.

The current WTO norms limit the value of food subsidies at 10 per cent of the total value of foodgrain production. However, the quantum of subsidy is computed after taking into consideration prices that prevailed two decades ago.

There are apprehensions that once India would fully implement its food security programme it may breach the cap.