India will not sacrifice farmers’ food security: Chavan

India will not sacrifice farmers’ food security: Chavan

New Delhi: “India will not sacrifice its food security and livelihood of its farmers," said Prithviraj Chavan, minister of state, Prime Minister’s Office at CII’s session on “The Doha Round: Can negotiations be completed by 2007?"

He said “India supports multilateral negotiations and we expect developed countries to make necessary concessions on agricultural subsidy and market access."

“India is keen that the Doha Round of world trade talks concludes successfully offering a free, fair and level-playing field to both developing and developed countries," said Chavan.

“On our part, we are unilaterally opening up our market and our tariffs have been liberalized to Asean levels. However, we cannot let our farmers be at the mercy of Western corporates, “ the minister said.

He pointed out that the government is investing heavily in social security schemes so that Indian farmers and workers are able to withstand global competition. In this context, he urged the industry to participate in strengthening India’s educational institutes, as the services sector growth was knowledge and technology-driven.

On India’s position as a lead negotiator for developing countries, he said “India’s impressive economic growth has given it credibility in the eyes of the West and was in a position to act as a bridge between developed and developing countries."

He also said, “since India was largely an agrarian economy, agriculture was key to negotiations and we want it to remain the key feature of the Doha Round." According to him, safeguard mechanisms are being worked out to buffet any shocks in agricultural trade."

Earlier in his welcome address, V K Mathur, CMD, Inapex Private ltd, said, “Successful completion of talks was in everybody’s interest and would benefit the world economies." He said the July draft negotiations failed due to many loopholes. He hoped that food security of developing countries and sensitivities of the services sector would be addressed in the next round of negotiations.

Speakers at the second session deliberated on Agriculture, NAMA and Services Negotiations. In his address on Agricultual Negotiations, Biswajit Dhar, professor and head, Centre for WTO Issues, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), said unless the West regulated farm subsidies and was flexible on market access, the talks were unlikely to conclude successfully this year.

With elections looming both in US and India, the respective governments would be unwilling to give too many concessions, jeopardizing further progress of talks. In this context, he highlighted the fact the new Farm Bill in the US had no provision to discipline subsidies. He said “agriculture was the lynchpin and if agriculture did not move, nothing else will".

Bipin Menon, joint director General of Foreign Trade, DGFT, ministry of commerce and industry, said, “though agriculture and NAMA were intrinsically entwined, we have not lost hope."

Speaking on Services Negotiations, Amit Yadav, director, ministry of commerce and industry, said “without bankable commitments from major developed countries in services at the time of finalizing modalities in agriculture and NAMA, it will be difficult for India to agree to the modalities. For a breakthrough in negotiations, the West should make real market access commitments, ensure special and differential treatment to LCDs and continue more focused discussions on GATS rules.