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Business News/ News / India/  How India's tough face at WTO Ministerial conference protected farmers, food security | Explained
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How India's tough face at WTO Ministerial conference protected farmers, food security | Explained

At the 13th Ministerial Conference of WTO, PM Modi-led Indian government decided to protect Indian farmers at the cost of facing some diplomatic ire from the developed nation

Union Minister for Commerce & Industry Piyush Goyal with World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala during the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference (PTI)Premium
Union Minister for Commerce & Industry Piyush Goyal with World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala during the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference (PTI)

In a major respite for farmers, India stood strong against the lobby of developed countries demanding a reduction in domestic support to agriculture during the Abu Dhabi Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). India was represented by Union Minister for Commerce Piyush Goyal in the conference, which was extended for two days to conclude on March 2. PM Modi-led Indian government decided to protect Indian farmers at the cost of facing some diplomatic ire from the developed nation.

What happened during the MC 13 at Abu Dhabi?

Abu Dhabi's 13th Ministerial Conference of the WTO concluded with the acceptance of the Abu Dhabi Declaration on Saturday, but missed an agreement in either fisheries or agriculture, as India decided to defend its farmer-friendly policies.

“Our objective was that our farmers and our fishermen should not face any kind of harm, no crisis should come, and in that, we successfully did not allow any such decision to be taken that would harm any farmer or fishermen," Union Minister Piyush Goyal said after the conference.

Why India didn't concede any space in agriculture and fisheries?

The developed nations were demanding that India make some policy changes to allow them easy market access for their farm produce. The demands included reductions in domestic support on agriculture for Indian farmers like the minimum support price (MSP), public stockholding for food security, subsidies for fisheries, etc.

India has maintained that public stockholding (PSH) is crucial for the country for its welfare programs like Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) which provides free ration to over 80 crore people and the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

To make this dry ration available, the government purchases agricultural produce from farmers at the MSP to assure them a minimum income and protect them from market uncertainties.

How has India's stand shifted over the years?

This demand has a history as in 2013, the Manmohan Singh government came under pressure at the Ninth Ministerial Conference (MC9) in Bali and agreed to a “peace clause" as an interim solution for the public stockholding for food security. The government further added that they will find a permanent solution by the 11th Ministerial Conference in 2017.

It was agreed that the “peace clause" which was the final thread supporting India's MSP program would remain in force till MC 11.

But, in 2014 Manmohan Singh was voted out of power and the NDA government approached the game in its own style. Ahead of the MC 11 in 2017, the new Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman informed the Parliament that India has decided “not to join the consensus in the WTO on the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement till our concerns relating to the implementation of other Bali Ministerial Decisions, in particular, the Decision on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes, was addressed".

Since then, India stood strong at all Ministerial Conferences of WTO and prioritized the farmer's interest over trade agreements with developed nations.

How developed countries reacted?

Frustration was visible among the developed nations, who expressed disappointment over the lack of consensus on agriculture and fisheries. The countries explicitly blamed India for the situation and expected that the PM Modi-led government would reconsider its position in the interest of free trade.

What's next?

The pending tasks from the WTO Ministerial Conference 13 are expected to undergo further deliberation during routine sessions of different committees at the WTO Secretariat in Geneva. Subsequently, these discussions will be advanced during the upcoming Ministerial Conference 14 scheduled to take place in Cameroon in two years.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Devesh Kumar
I cover politics, geo-politics, economy, and technology and have keen interest in understanding and analyzing the complex issues that shape our world. I am committed to delivering well-researched, balanced, and thought-provoking stories that provides insights into the key trends and developments.
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Published: 03 Mar 2024, 06:10 PM IST
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