India Backtracks on TFA over Food Subsidy Row

Published: 27th July 2014 08:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th July 2014 08:10 AM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI: In the first ever step back from a position agreed upon by the previous UPA Government, the new dispensation has thrown a spanner in the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) reached at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in Bali in December last.

Taking a critical view of the TFA inked by erstwhile Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Union   Finance Minister Arun Jaitley made it known that India will not allow the agreement, over which 160 member countries are meeting in Geneva, to go through unless the food subsidy issue is “delinked”.

Indicating that the Indian government, as also the developing world, need to protect farm subsidies and farmer interest, Jaitley said that the earlier anomaly has to corrected citing the much higher farm subsidies that the developed world has retained to keep their agriculture sector protected.

The TFA is expected to boost the world economy by $ One trillion and create an estimated 20 million jobs worldwide.

According to the agencies, India has suggested that the WTO should go for ‘back-to-back’ meetings for a permanent solution to its food security issues and review the progress in October.

Jaitley said that India had made it clear that it will not adopt the protocol on the TFA without an assurance and visible outcomes on finding a permanent solution to its public food stock holding issue for food security purposes.

“India is suggesting that let us start work in right earnest on these issues and review the progress in October. The Committee on Agriculture can do back-to-back meetings or special session dedicated for this purpose,” a senior Commerce Ministry official said.

India is going to state its stand in the ongoing General Council meeting in Geneva. After difference of opinion emerged among between developed countries such as the US, Australia, European nations and emerging economies including India and South Africa, it is clear that the deadline of July 31 to adopt the protocol on TFA will be missed. “We can defer the time. Time lines are important, but they are not sacrosanct at the cost of the interest of a large humanity which lives below the poverty line. We are not saying that we want to postpone it to eternity, no, not at all,” the official said.

On the allegations of the developed world that India is blocking that WTO’s Bali deal, the official said, “We have not blocked the deal. If that will be the interpretation, God knows how many times WTO has been blocked”.

Due to the deadlock on several issues, the WTO has missed many deadlines in concluding the Doha Round of talks. “Nobody said that the WTO was blocked in 2006, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2013. Every time some country mainly a developed country put its foot down and said no,” the official added.

“There are good enough reasons emanating from capitals of some countries and in Geneva for us to believe that TFA once harvested, the interest in the remaining part of the Bali package is substantially diluted,” the official said.

Last year, during the ninth Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Bali, members, including India agreed on a package comprising an agreement on the TFA and issues relating to agriculture and development.

India had also stated that it is not against the TFA as the pact is in the interest of the countries who engage in international trade.

“Food security is not an issue which is an esoteric issue, it is a relevant and real issue,” the official added. The General Council of the 160-member WTO will find it difficult to adopt the TFA without India’s approval.

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