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India’s stern message to WTO: Food security non-negotiable

Addressing the plenary session of the 9th Ministerial Conference of the WTO, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said the Bali package must be substantive, and historical imbalances in trade rules must be corrected to ensure a rule-based, fair and equitable order.

'Agriculture sustains millions of subsistence farmers. Their interests must be secured. Food security is essential for over 4 billion people of the world. For India, food security is non-negotiable. Need of the public stock-holding of foodgrains to ensure food security must be respected. Dated World Trade Organisation rules need to be corrected,' he said.

The G-33, 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 to poor people at cheap rates through public distribution system. India's Food Security Act entitles 82 crore people to 5 kg of foodgrains per person a month at Rs 1-3 per kg. The country needs 62 million tonnes foodgrains a year to implement the law.

'A trade agreement must be in harmony with our shared commitments of eliminating hunger and ensuring the right to food. These are an integral part of the Millennium Development Goals,' he added.

He said the due restraint provision in its current form cannot be accepted and it must remain in force till 'we reach a negotiated permanent solution'.

The G-33 proposal on food security aimed at addressing the problems faced by developing countries due to outdated WTO rules which base agriculture subsidy calculation on external reference prices of 1986-88, even as global food prices have increased manifold during this period.

India is pinning hopes on wide support from the grouping of G-33 which includes China and Indonesia. However, given the political compulsions back home in an election year, sources said, India would prefer a ‘no deal to bad deal’, especially with regard to farmers. On the trade facilitation agreement (TFA), Sharma has clearly said that although India has remained constructively engaged, ‘yet, a few contentious issues remain’ and ‘we consider it premature to lend support to an inconclusive TFA’.

Don’t distort farm market to feed the hungry: EU

Bali: Amid India's hard posture that the food security issue is ‘non-negotiable’, the European Union on Wednesday said that every human has the right to food security but the programme should not distort the global agriculture market.

‘Every human being has the right to food security, either living in India or (elsewhere)... discussion at stake is how do you make sure that the food security programme does not distort the agriculture market,’ EU Trade Commissioner Karl De Gucht told reporters here at a press briefing after the plenary session of the World Trade Organisation ministerial conference.

Trade ministers and diplomats from around 130 countries are participating in the four-day meeting that started on Tuesday.

The G-33, grouping of 46-member developing nations including India, China and Indonesia, has proposed to amend the WTO Agreement on Agriculture. Developed regions such as the EU and the USA are against stockpiling of foodgrains, which is used by India to supply cheap grains under its food security programme.
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