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India's strong leadership led to ending WTO impasse: Sitharaman

PTI 22 November 2014, 9:34
PTI

New Delhi: India's strong leadership and negotiating from a position of strength on the food security issue paved the way for ending the impasse at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said Friday.

"We wouldn't have reached a stage where we can say that we are closer to a solution and we probably will get over the impasse. It's only because you were able to as a country stand up with strength, argue with substance and negotiate with equal rights," she said at the World Hindu Economic Forum here.

"Because of the kind of leadership with which we were able to project India, that is a very big difference," she added.

Sithraman said India's voice is being taken seriously at global institutions like the IMF, the World Bank and G-20.

"It leads you to be taken seriously.India is now not just seeking high table, it is being invited to the high table only because the sagging European and North American economies depend on emerging economies like India for solutions to revive their economies," she said.

Last week, Sithraman announced an end to the impasse over the WTO accord to ease global customs rules, saying an agreement has been reached with the US on the issue of food stockpiling.

The deal opens the way for a consensus on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) which had eluded the World Trade Organisation members in July.

India has asked for a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes and not a restricted period of four years as was originally decided during the WTO ministerial meeting in Bali, Indonesia last year.

India has been under pressure from several countries, particularly the US, to drop its objections to the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

India's objections are on the WTO limits on agriculture subsidies at 10 percent of the total value of foodgrain production, and on stockpiling foodgrains. Complying with the country's Food Security Act passed last year that guarantees subsidised foodgrains to around 70 percent of the population could result in breaching these limits leading to penalties for India.

At Bali, the ministers also agreed, by what is called the "peace clause", that till 2017 no country can move the dispute settlement body of the WTO against another member if its government was found to be breaching the level of subsidy freeze that was permitted.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman has said in statement in Washington: "On the basis of this breakthrough with India, we now look forward to working with all WTO members and with Director-General Roberto Azevedo to reach a consensus that enables full implementation of all elements of the landmark Bali Package, including the Trade Facilitation Agreement."

While India's specific proposals have not yet been made public, Sitharaman has urged the WTO members to take these forward at the body's General Council.