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WTO DG signals movement in India's food security concerns

India awaits General Council meet outcome, which might make it clear if the members will be ready to negotiate its demand on food security or not

Nayanima Basu  |  New Delhi 

Robert Azevedo
Robert Azevedo

Even as India is keen on an early resolution of its demand for a permanent solution to public stockholding for food security, World Trade Organization (WTO) director-general Roberto Azevêdo hinted at some movement in that direction. India, which had vetoed the Trade Facilitation Agreement in July, has been insisting on having a parallel agreement by the WTO so that it can offer unlimited subsidies to its farmers producing staple food items such as rice, wheat and cereals. This is not allowed under the existing WTO rules.

“On public stockholding, it is my sense that there is a widespread positive disposition to negotiate an outcome – or a ‘permanent solution’ as it has been branded,” Azevêdo said after the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) meeting on Thursday at the WTO headquarters in Geneva. However, the Indian government did not seem to be much enthused about the TNC meeting, partly because it is focused on the main outcome at the General Council (GC) meeting on October 21.

According to a commerce ministry official, the government is hopeful members will be ready to negotiate food security, which will be made explicit in the GC meet next week. The government also believes a permanent solution might become a reality by the time the GC meets again in December.

However, Azevêdo noted that some members are still reluctant to negotiate the food security issue by putting all other issues on hold.

Therefore, the December GC meet will be a tentative deadline to arrive at a solution to both TFA and public stockholding, he said.

He also noted that a consensus seemed unlikely.

“We have not found a solution to the impasse. The deadline for the Trade Facilitation Agreement passed more than two months ago. We are on borrowed time… We should keep working for a solution to the current impasse, but we should also think about our next steps,” he said.

He added that since the deadline to adopt the protocol of TFA amendment by July 31 could not be met, there is now a “growing distrust” among members which is hampering the future course of action.

“Of course this is not new to us – deadlock has unfortunately become a familiar position. But that doesn't make it any more acceptable,” Azevêdo said.

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First Published: Fri, October 17 2014. 00:46 IST