Home / Politics / Policy /  WTO seeks efforts for permanent deal on food security

New Delhi: A deal between India and the US to end the stalemate over the Bali trade package has raised the possibility of a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes by the end of next year.

A statement prepared for delivery at the general council meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the chairman on Wednesday says WTO members will engage “constructively" and make all efforts to find a permanent solution within a year’s time. Mint reviewed a copy of the statement

“Members shall engage constructively to negotiate and make all concerted efforts to agree and adopt a permanent solution on the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes by 31 December, 2015," the statement reads.

The chairman Jonathan Fried will also urge the members to hold negotiations on the subject in the committee of agriculture in “dedicated sessions" and in an “accelerated time frame", separate from the agriculture negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda that have dragged on for years.

As made public by India’s trade minister Nirmala Sitharaman last week, WTO members will also be urged to change the Bali declaration to clarify that the so-called “peace clause" under which no country shall drag a country that violates the public stockholding limits for dispute settlement will be available “until a permanent solution is agreed and adopted" and not for four years as agreed in Bali last year.

The statement says that if a permanent solution is not found by the 11th ministerial of WTO scheduled for 2017, the peace clause shall remain in force, thus making the end-2015 deadline non-binding.

US trade representative Michael Froman, who is currently visiting India for the ministerial level Trade Policy Forum meeting on Monday, said the breakthrough at WTO would not have been possible without the personal engagement of President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“They gave our partnership a mantra: Chalein Saath Saath: Forward Together We Go. “That’s what we’re doing at the WTO. And that’s what we’re doing in our bilateral trade and investment relationship as well," he said.

India under the Narendra Modi government opposed the first multilateral deal under WTO reached at Bali last year, calling it “unbalanced", since it does not take care of the concerns of developing countries on the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes.

Developing countries oppose a WTO rule that caps subsidies to farmers at 10% of the total value of agricultural production, based on 1986-88 prices. They point out that the base year is now outdated and they need to be given leeway to stock enough foodgrains to ensure food security for millions of their poor.

The Modi government wanted a permanent solution on the matter in place of a four-year peace clause and blocked the adoption of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) by 31 July, which was also part of the Bali package. WTO may now adopt a resolution on Wednesday seeking early implementation of the TFA.

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