ON BOARD SPECIAL PLANE: Asserting that trade facilitation and food security are closely interlinked, President Pranab Mukherjee today asked developed nations not to view India's decision against ratifying WTO's TFA as "market distortion".
Mukherjee, who returned to New Delhi after wrapping up his two nation tour of Norway and Finland, told reporters on board his special aircraft that neither India is "isolated" nor should it be blamed for holding World Trade Organisation (WTO) hostage for its demand that food security should be made part of agreement as envisaged in the 2013 Bali meeting.
He was replying to a question whether India found itself isolated for not agreeing to initiating trade facilitation among the 160-member world body under which custom rules have to be liberalised for easy movement of goods from one country to another.
"The question is not that whether India is isolated or somebody is blaming India. The entire African countries have written letters to Director General of WTO that please treat the Bali ministerial declaration as an integrated package.
"We are definitely concerned about food security and I made it quite clear as it was made quite clear in the Bali ministerial meeting which was in continuation of the Doha development round, that if we want to maintain the developmental aspect, which was agreed by all in Doha round of discussion, food security is an important issue there," he told reporters on his while returning from his five-day visit.
India has made it clear that it would stick to its position on the food security issue at the WTO as it is the sovereign duty of the government to protect the interest of its poor and that it would not ratify Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) until a permanent solution was found on the food security issue.
New Delhi has asked WTO to amend the norms for calculating agriculture subsidies so that India could continue to procure food grains from farmers at minimum support price and sell them to poor at cheaper rates without violating the norms.
The WTO's highest decision making body General Council's meeting on July 31 had remained inconclusive after India stressed that Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and finding a permanent solution to the food stock-holding issues should be taken up together.
Speaking on the impasse in WTO, its Director General Roberto Azevedo yesterday said there is a "widespread positive disposition" to find a permanent solution to the issue of public stock-holding of foodgrains. "On public stock-holding, it is my sense that there is a widespread positive disposition to negotiate an outcome, or a permanent solution as it has been branded. Nonetheless, there also seems to be an overarching reluctance to put other issues on hold while that permanent solution is sought," Azevedo said at the Trade Negotiations Committee meeting in Geneva.
Stating that no solution has been found to the impasse more than two months after the deadline for the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) had passed, he said: "This could be the most serious situation that this organisation has ever faced".
He added that while members should keep working for a solution to the current impasse, "we should also think about our next steps".