Geneva: India has rebuked Australia and several other countries for their campaign against New Delhi’s farm support programmes, especially input or investment subsidies of $25 billion, saying it will not accept estimates based on dubious grounds, said people familiar with the development.

Australia was joined by Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Argentina, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay to float a proposal on 20 September at the World Trade Organization (WTO) claiming that India, China and Indonesia became the world’s largest subsidizers with “trade and production distorting subsidies," in 2010.

In contrast, the US and the European Union “have significantly reduced their (trade and production distorting subsidies) use", the countries alleged. “In 2001, the top five users were, the EU, the US, India, Japan, and Norway," but in 2010, “the top five largest users were India, China, the EU, Japan and the US," according to the joint proposal.

Australia, however, did not mention that the EU and the US have shifted tens of billions of trade-distorting subsidies to what is called the green box programmes, which are currently exempted under the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) rules, said a trade envoy, requesting anonymity.

“After the Doha round of trade negotiations began in 2001, the EU and the US have shifted more than $100 billion trade-distorting subsidies to the green box." The Doha round is nearly put to bed by the US, the EU, Australia, and other countries, the envoy added.

In an attempt to pile up pressure on India, China and Indonesia, among others, Australia and its allies have created a new category of “trade and production distorting subsidies" by clubbing all programmes that come under Article 6, including developmental programmes that are exempted under Article 6.2.

Governments in developing countries are allowed to provide input subsidies that are “exempt from domestic support reduction commitments that would otherwise be applicable to such measures", under Article 6.2 of the AoA.

Since the past four years, the US has been campaigning for removing Article 6.2 exemption, which provides special and differential flexibility aimed at assisting the resource-poor farmers in India and other developing countries. But New Delhi has fiercely opposed United States’ demand, saying that under no circumstance, it will allow attempts to do away with the exemptions under Article 6.2, said several trade envoys, who asked not to be identified.

Taking a cue from the US, its closest trade ally Australia, along with other members, has now intensified the campaign against India, China and other developing countries, which have hundreds of millions of resource-poor farmers with less than $200 per capita support as compared to about $50,000 dollars in the US.

At the special negotiating session on Thursday, India’s trade envoy J.S. Deepak flatly rejected the Australian proposal saying it was based on dubious grounds. He argued that the per-capita farm support that farmers receive in India was much lower in comparison to the levels of support in industrialized countries. Several countries, including China, South Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines, supported India in rejecting the Australian proposal.

The US, however, welcomed Australia’s move saying that it has repeatedly raised this issue. The US had also filed a counter notification against India’s subsidies to rice and wheat, saying they breached New Delhi’s de minimis commitments, a charge India had categorically dismissed.

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