WTO: Game of Brinkmanship

Tags: News

India refuses to relent, wants July 31 deadline shifted to Dec 31 to solve food security issue

India on Friday forcefully told WTO general council in Geneva that the July end deadline be shifted to December end in view of stonewalling by industrialised nations to find a permanent solution on food security, an issue that affects 600 million poor in the world.

While tremendous prog­ress has been made on trade facilitation, as it would open up $1 trillion of additional global trade, industrialised nations were dragging their feet on two other issues of importance to developing countries, food security and issues pertaining to least developed countries.

Suggesting a four-point course of action to break the impasse at the WTO, India told the general council that “all we are asking is that the public stockholding issue as well as other decisions of Bali be taken forward in the same timeframe as trade facilitation.”

The trade facilitation agreement was to be concluded by July 31 by the 160-member WTO along with the other two issues. While the agreement has been nearly finalised, the meeting for resolving the other two issues have hardly made progress apparently due to dilatory tactics of industrialised nations, including US.

To deliver outcomes on these issues in a time-bound manner, India suggested immediate establishment of an institutional mechanism like a dedicated special session of the committee on agriculture to solve the public stock holding issue.

Secondly there must be clear-cut procedures, timelines and outcomes under this institutional mechanism so as to arrive at a permanent solution by December 31, the statement made in Geneva and released here said.

A similar approach must be adopted on all other elements of the Bali package, notably issues pertaining to least developed countries, the third major issue at stake.

The general council can review progress on these in October 2014, it said, adding India is of the view that the trade facilitation agreement must be implemented only as part of a single undertaking along with two other issues.

India also said its commitment to Bali ministerial meetings, including the trade facilitation agreement, were complete. “All we are asking is that the public stockholding issue should be taken forward in the same timeframe as trade facilitation,’’ the statement said.

New Delhi felt it is a simple issue that can be addressed quickly as it is important that millions of farmers and poor families who depend on domestic food stocks, do not have to live in constant fear.

To jeopardise the food security of millions at the altar of a mere anomaly in the rules is unacceptable, the statement said.

If WTO members demonstrate the same energy and commitment on the other Bali issues as they have done on trade facilitation, “we will not only be able to find a permanent solution on the issue of public stockholding for food security but will also be able to implement trade facilitation agreement in the agreed timeframe as well,” the statement said.

The public stockholding issue is an agreed part of the 2008 text at the WTO and represents a life and death situation for a number of developing countries and LDCs. Discussion can begin immediately as there are proposals already available.

The statement said the trade facilitation protocol be postponed till a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security is found.

It said India also believed that the failure of the WTO to work in the interests of all its members and to deliver meaningfully on the “development” mandate of the Doha development round would pose a far more serious risk to its credibility than any other factor.

India also voiced concern over persistent efforts to subvert the mandate by divesting it of its core elements, the statement said, apparently referring to US and other industrialised nations. “To make matters worse, persistent efforts are being made to subvert the mandate by divesting it of its core elements,” India said.

A commerce ministry official said, “We have not blocked the deal. If that is the interpretation, God only knows how many times WTO has been blocked. No body said that WTO was blocked in 2006, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2013 when talks were derailed due to tough posturing by industrialised nations.’’

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

“Food security is not an esoteric issue, it is a relevant and real issue," the official added.

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