No hitch in providing permanent solution on food security by WTO: Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

New Delhi: Members of the WTO will have to provide permanent solution to India’s food security issue and the country does not see any “hitch” in that, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said.

“Peace clause is with us and it’s only natural that they (WTO) have to give a permanent solution. How it is going to be given… I do not see any hitch in that. Whether it is going to happen before Nairobi meet or not is get to be seeing,” Sitharaman said.

Ending months-long deadlock, the World Trade Organization in November last year acceded to India’s demand to remove constraints on the food stockpiling issue. The WTO’s General Council, the highest decision making body of the organisation, had accepted India’s demand for extending the peace clause till a permanent solution is found for its food stockpiling issue.

This has enabled India to continue procurement and stocking of foodgrain for distribution to the poor under its food security programme without attracting any kind of action from WTO members even if it breaches the 10% subsidy cap as prescribed by the multilateral trade body.

For a permanent solution, India had proposed either amending the formula to calculate the food subsidy cap of 10%, which is based on the reference price of 1986-88, or allowing such schemes outside the purview of subsidy caps.

If no solution is found by the agreed deadline of December 31 this year, the peace clause will continue till the time a solution is found.

“…the peace clause which we did last year, so that till the full fledged permanent solution for the public stock holding is given, we at least have something in our hand in terms of providing support to our farmers,” Sitharaman said.

The food security issue concerns several developing nations which provides subsidised food grains to their poor. Talking about the trade facilitation agreement (TFA), the minister said India is committed to the pact and has already started work for its full implementation.

“The Finance Minister has already made a lot of announcements towards achieving trade facilitation. Whether it is the ports being run more efficiently, putting all things online, customs being available 24×7, all these steps are towards trade facilitation,” she said.

She said India would also give its list to the WTO towards the fulfillment of TFA.

TFA, the only pact WTO members have agreed upon since the establishment of this multi-lateral trade body since 1995, aims at easing customs norms and procedures for smooth flow of goods across the globe.

Sitharaman said many elements that were agreed to in Bali ministerial are still to be fulfilled.

“We have to honour Bali ministerial commitments. So towards the fulfilment of Bali, we are on course and we want the WTO also to move like that. Post-Nairobi what is the situation, how many of the Doha developmental issues will not be fulfilled before December. Are they going to be carried forward the post-Nairobi. What will be the narrative at that time. These are the issues which we are still working,” she added.

WTO 10th ministerial meeting is scheduled from December 15-18 at Nairobi in Kenya.

The Doha Round of negotiations launched in 2001 have remained stalled since July 2008 due to differences between the rich and the developing nations mainly over the subsidies given to farmers.