Millennium Post

‘Won’t sacrifice farmers at WTO’

The pressure from the developed world notwithstanding. ‘We have to take a firm position with the powerful countries of the world. Had we followed the policies of the previous government, the interests of our small farmers would have been jeopardised,’ said Jaitley.

The WTO talks in Geneva failed this week following a tough stand taken by India on our food security issues. Speaking at a Budget par Charcha with Residents’ Welfare Associations’ (RWAs) representatives organised by the BJP Delhi unit here on Saturday, Jaitley said, ‘For us, the interest of farmers is paramount. There was a lot of pressure. But the Government took a firm decision that it will participate in all negotiations but will not compromise the interest of poor farmers.’

He added that small farmers in India live in great distress. ‘They have to borrow money for farming and their inability to repay loans sometimes pushes them towards suicide,’ he pointed out. The WTO talks failed as the developed world refused to take India’s farm subsidy concerns on board. It wanted India to agree to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), a pro-Western pact aiming to change customs procedures and reduce transactions costs without agreeing on farm issues.

India was pressing for an amendment to the WTO norms regarding stockpile of foodgrains and calculation of food subsidies, an issue critical to our country’s food security programme. The current WTO norms limit the value of food subsidies to 10 per cent of the total value of foodgrains production.

However, the support is calculated at prices that are over two decades old. India has been asking for a change in the base year (1986-88) for calculating the food subsidies. We want such a change, taking into account inflation and currency fluctuations.

With the current norm, after full implementation of the food security programme, India would breach the cap of 10 per cent which could be challenged in the World Trade Organisation and severe penalties could be imposed on India.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement is being pushed by the USA and its subordinate Western ‘ally’ nations as they seek to bolster their sagging economies through unhindered international trade by way of uniform and easy procedures at customs.
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