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Commerce Minister Prabhu seeks permanent solution to World Food Security at WTO Meet at Marrakesh

Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu urged the developed countries to find a permanent solution on the issue of Public stockholding of food grains for food security purposes. Since this issue is of tremendous importance not only to India but to all developing countries, a solution to this issue would give a strong signal of World Trade Organisation's determination to end hunger and achieve food security. This is mandated in the United Nations sustainable development goal two the commerce minister asserted.

Mr Pabhu who was addressing informal Ministerial gathering at Marakesh spoke about India's priorities and position regarding various issues under discussion in the WTO.

Emphasizing the importance of special and differential treatment for developing countries, the Commerce   Minister said India would be willing to engage on proposals that recognized this right for all developing countries without exception.

He pointed out that in India, the total number of people dependent on agriculture in one way or another is close to 600 million, with nearly 98 per cent of Indian farmers being low income or resource poor and mostly engaged in subsistence farming. Under such circumstances, it was imperative for India to balance trade liberalization with the need to protect the livelihood of its farmers, he said.

Mr Prabhu called upon WTO members to first deal with the issues which were already under negotiation, before moving on to new ones.

On the issue of discipline on fisheries subsidies, the Commerce Minister also stressed the importance of suitable special and differential treatment provisions and the need to make a clear distinction between large scale commercial fishing and traditional fishing.

He pointed out that in India a large number of small, largely resource poor fish workers depended on traditional fishing activity as a source of livelihood. He observed that developing countries like India, possessing very low fishing capacity, would also need to retain policy space to promote and create such capacity.

Mr Prabhu also spoke about the importance of a transparent and inclusive process of negotiations at the WTO and the need to do all preparatory work before the Meeting so that only issues, which have matured for conclusion, are taken forward to the Ministerial Conference. India’s stance was very well received from all quarters making the Minister’s visit a big success.

The Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu attended an Informal WTO Ministerial Gathering in Marrakesh, Morocco from October 9 to 10. The meeting was held in preparation for the Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC11) of the WTO scheduled to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina from December 10 to 13.

Ministers and delegates of 35 WTO member countries exchanged views on what could be realistically achieved and the possibilities for compromise. The objective of the informal gathering was to provide political impetus to the negotiations and guidance on potential outcomes.

Mr. Prabhu, led discussions on behalf of the developing world and reiterated commitment to the Doha Round. He referred to the agreed objectives of the agriculture negotiations in the Doha Round and called for continuation of the reform process and to avoid further widening and perpetuation of the imbalance between developed and developing countries. He pointed out that any meaningful reform in agriculture must first seek to reduce the disproportionately large subsidies of the developed countries.

On the sidelines of the meeting, the Commerce Minister also held marathon bilateral meetings to push India’s trade in a comprehensive manner. He met Ministers from the EU, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Russia, Rwanda, Morocco, as well as the Director General of the WTO.   

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