India not to compromise on food security, may stall WTO deal

On the eve of WTO ministerial meeting, India Monday said the interim solution on food security as currently designed is not acceptable and the country won't compromise its farmers' interest or succumb to mercantilist ambitions of rich nations.

PTI| Last Updated: Dec 02, 2013, 21:42 PM IST

Bali: Ahead of the two-day ministerial meeting of the WTO, India on Monday toughened its stand ruling out any compromise on food security, raising the prospect of a failure of Doha round negotiations on trade issues.

New Delhi also expressed concern over developed countries stand on the overall package of the 33-member WTO meeting here saying on a few issues the rich nations are paying only "lip service".

India recently adopted an ambitious food security scheme guaranteeing highly subsidised foodgrains to two-thirds of its population, a programme that cannot be implemented if the current subsidy levels set by WTO for the country are accepted.

Addressing a press conference on the eve of the meet, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said the interim solution on food security as currently designed was not acceptable.

India will not compromise its farmers' interest or succumb to mercantilist ambitions of rich nations, he said.

There is a national consensus and complete political unanimity on this matter in India, Sharma said, adding: "It is therefore difficult for us to accept an interim solution as it has been currently designed.

"We can no longer allow the interests of our farmers to be compromised at the altar of mercantilist ambitions of the rich. The Bali Ministerial Meeting is an opportunity for the developing countries to stay united in resolve to demonstrate the centrality of agriculture in trade talks."

The five main points on the conference agenda are tariff rate, export competition, trade facilitation and public stockholding for food security. The developed nations want agreement on these areas at the Bali ministerial meeting but analyst doubt whether consensus can be built with countries like India voicing strong opposition to the text.

Sharma said that India is disappointed that the drafts on matters like export competition contain no specific deliverables.

"We are disappointed that the drafts before us contain no specific deliverables on many issues of particular significance to developing countries," he said.

He has put all these points during the G-20 ministerial meeting early in the day. The G-20 members which include India have major interest in agri exports.

Sharma said that the "text on export competition only pays lip service to the goal of eliminating export subsidies on a mandatory basis as enshrined in the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration of 2005".

He said that the text was merely a political declaration, devoid of any substance and also lacks a binding commitment.

Calling for re-energising Doha Round of talks, Sharma said overall the Bali package as a whole cannot be considered to be balanced.

"While developing countries and LDC (least developed nations) members are expected to take binding commitments on trade facilitation without a firm commitment for provision on financial assistance, in areas of interest to them such as export subsidies, cotton, LDC service waiver there are no binding commitments," he said.

He also said that outcome on export competition and tariff rate quota administration are below expectations.

Agriculture reform was an important part of the Doha mandate and India is insisting that it should remain central to the agenda.

"We strongly believe that the time has come to remove the disparity in agricultural trade rules, which was biased in favour of developed countries," he added.