WTO impasse over, India's food security concerns taken on board
Geneva/New Delhi: Ending months-long deadlock, the WTO has approved a trade facilitation pact while agreeing to India's demand for continuing the peace clause till a permanent solution is found to the food stockpiling issue, crucial for continuing food security scheme.
"Until a permanent solution is agreed and adopted...(WTO) members shall not challenge through the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism, compliance of a developing Member with its obligations ...of the Agreement on Agriculture in relation to support provided for traditional staple food crops in pursuance of public stock-holding programmes for food security purposes existing as of the date of the Bali Decision," the WTO said.
The WTO's General Council, the highest decision making body met in Geneva today and accepted India's demand for extending the peace clause till a permanent solution is found for its food stockpiling issue.
It said that if a permanent solution for the issue of public stock-holding is not agreed and adopted by the 11th Ministerial Conference (2017), "the mechanism...shall continue to be in place until a permanent solution is agreed and adopted".
The historic trade facilitation agreement (TFA) would now need to be ratified by governments of individual member countries, including India, for coming into effect which is expected some time next year.
On TFA, it said that the pact for easing customs norm was adopted by WTO members for acceptance.
On the positive development in Geneva, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said this is a very important moment for the multi-lateral trade body.
"By agreeing these three decisions we have put ourselves back in the game. We have put our negotiating work back on track - that means all the Bali decisions: trade facilitation, public stock-holding, the LDC (least developed countries) issues, the decisions on agriculture, development, and all of the other elements," he said.
Today's decision is crucial for India to meet over Rs 1 lakh crore a year food security programme, which needs 62 million tonnes of foodgrain in a year.
This will enable India to continue procurement and stocking of foodgrain for distribution to poor under its food security programme without attracting any kind of action from WTO members. On public stockholding of food grains, Azevedo said that the WTO is committed to following an accelerated timeframe.
"I trust that members will now deliver this commitment and work constructively together towards finding a permanent solution. We have a target date to conclude the negotiations: December 2015. So again, we don't have any time to lose," Azevedo added.
On TFA, he said that adopting the protocol of amendment was an essential step.
He said that now all the members should work closely with their capitals to begin the process of ratification.
The members should aim that by the time of the General Council on the December 10, they have a clear sense of what lies ahead and a plan for taking our work forward in the New Year.
Under the peace clause, a WTO member gets immunity against penalty for breaching the food subsidy cap. As per the WTO norms, a developing nation can provide food subsidy of up to 10 percent of the total farm output.
The TFA is being pushed by the US and other developed world as they seek to bolster their sagging economies through unhindered international trade by way of a uniform and easy procedures at customs.