India won’t accept interim solution on food subsidy at WTO

    By IANS,

    Bali : Food subsidy is a sensitive issue and a critical social imperative for India and the country would not accept an “interim solution” offered by developed countries at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said Monday.

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    In a statement at a G-33 meeting here on the eve of the 9th ministerial conference of the WTO, Sharma said there was a “national consensus and complete political unanimity” on the issue of food subsidy in India.

    “It is therefore difficult for us to accept an interim solution as it has been currently designed,” the minister said.

    “As a responsible nation, we are committed to a constructive engagement for finding a lasting solution. But till such time that we reach there, an interim solution which protects us from all forms of challenge must remain intact,” he added.

    Several WTO member countries, especially from the developed world, have raised reservations on India’s food subsidy programme. They fear that due to the ambitious social security programme introduced earlier this year, India’s agriculture subsidy would breach 10 percent cap under the WTO agreements.

    Developed countries have proposed an interim solution called “peace clause” under which India would not attract any penalty even if it breaches 10 percent cap. The temporary relief is proposed for four years.

    Sharma emphasised that food security must be protected from all challenges in the WTO as it is not only a sensitive issue for India but also a critical social imperative.

    Stressing the need for a fair balance in the Bali outcome, Sharma said: “We can no longer allow the interests of our farmers to be compromised at the altar of mercantilist ambitions of the rich.”

    “The Bali ministerial meeting is an opportunity for the developing countries to stay united in resolve to demonstrate the centrality of agriculture in trade talks,” he said.