Millennium Post

Is gain at WTO a real victory?

Even though the Bali breakthrough marked a big moment for India at the World Trade Organisation, have we managed to seal a permanent victory? Apparently not. The fact that the food security act has been saved for the time being by a strong and unwavering Indian delegation led by commerce minister Anand Sharma, there’s quite a lot that has left out of the landmark deal at Bali. Though India put forth a spirited defence and blocked opposition from developed countries, chiefly the US and the Western European nations, to a number of facets of our food security programme, it has, however, diluted the deal somewhat by leaving out a crucial part of the food deal. Of course, the fact that Sharma and the rest managed to wrest the food security provision from the detractors, who did not want the food subsidies to cross 10 per cent of the overall production even though they have massive subsidies within their own domestic set-up, is commendable. Otherwise, our Food Security Act would have fallen through the cracks in the global food market, our inefficient public distribution system and inability of our government to control prices.

  However, there’s a loophole in the scheme of things, since even though there’s no four-year deadline looming in the horizon for the Indian government to rejig its food security programme according to the previous demands of the WTO honchos, the Agreement of Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM) has been left out of the Bali text, which includes only the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). This crucial lack might, in future, give ammunition to the developed countries to claim that over 10 per cent of food subsidies by the developing countries, particularly the likes of Brazil and India, could affect the export market. Since India is an enormous market for food crops and agricultural products, such an allegation might turn the tables suddenly and India might have to come up with a foolproof plan to save its food subsidies act all over again.
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