Hope Fades for WTO Deal in Bali - The New Indian Express

Hope Fades for WTO Deal in Bali

Published: 05th December 2013 12:05 PM

Last Updated: 05th December 2013 12:43 PM

Industry body CII has urged developed nations to show more flexibility and understanding towards food security needs of developing economies like India at the Ministerial of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), to ensure that a balanced Bali package is concluded at the earliest.

“Finding a common landing zone on the important issue of food security is critical to ensure a success at the Bali Ministerial of WTO,” the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) said.

“Flexibility is critical to ensure that the Bali package, which includes an agreement on Trade Facilitation, is concluded at the earliest and a balanced package is firmed up,” leader of the CII delegation to the Bali Ministerial Deep Kapuria said, adding, “A good trade facilitation agreement (TFA) can help business globally.”

New Delhi Wants a Blanket Exemption

Indonesian activists wear masks while protesting against the World Trade Organization meeting in Bali, Indonesia. (AP)
Chances for success in Bali have increasingly centred on India’s position on food security.

India passed a landmark National Food Security Act in August that will expand the buying of grain from farmers at subsidised rates, and sell it to consumers at prices reduced even further.

Facing tough elections next year, the government fears a WTO requirement limiting subsidies to no more than 10 per cent of agricultural production could threaten its efforts to provide cheap food for its hundreds of millions of poor.

“Yes, we have rejected it,” Commerce Minister Anand Sharma told reporters, shortly after telling the 159-member WTO that the matter is “non-negotiable.”

New Delhi fears the accord could endanger its efforts to support farmers and subsidise food in the huge nation.

The Bali package would exempt India from challenges to its subsidies for 4 years, but India wants a blanket exemption until a permanent solution is negotiated.

Uncle Sam’s new initiative

Alternative regional pacts between major trading nations including the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership pushed by Washington have emerged, threatening the WTO with obsolescence. But, new WTO chief Roberto Azevedo of Brazil has warned such arrangements cannot protect the interests of the world’s poorest countries — a key WTO objective.

Blow for WTO

The WTO launched the Doha Round in Qatar in 2001 to pursue its vision of an open trading environment fair to both rich and poor countries

The Doha Round seeks to overhaul commerce by setting a global framework of rules

The Doha Round could create tens of millions of jobs and perhaps $1 trillion in new economic activity

But protectionist disputes between rich and poor countries, and the WTO’s insistence that an accord be unanimous, have made progress frustratingly elusive.

The “Bali package” being considered this week focuses on a handful of specific issues including agriculture, simplifying customs procedures and measures to help least-developed countries. A modest deal in those areas could keep Doha on life-support for a later push.

Hard Talk

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, in his three-minute address at the two-and-a-half hour plenary session of the 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), said the food security issue was “non-negotiable.”

Agriculture sustains millions of subsistence farmers. Their interests must be secured. Food security is essential for over four billion people of the world.”

“For India, food security is non-negotiable. Need of public stock-holding of foodgrains to ensure food security must be respected. Dated WTO rules need to be corrected.”

25 nations including Nigeria, Argentina, Kenya, Jamaica, Brazil, Cuba, South Africa, Bolivia, Nepal, Egypt, Uganda, Namibia, Argentina, Zimbabwe, Ecuador, Venezuela, Mauritius and Nicaragua  strongly supported India’s view that a permanent solution is must for the smooth implementation of the food security programme.

G-33, the Grouping of 46-member developing nations including India, China and Indonesia, has proposed to amend the WTO Agreement on Agriculture in order to procure foodgrains from poor farmers at minimum support price and sell them to poor people at cheap rates through public distribution system.

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