India has expressed “deep disappointment” over the decision of a “major member
country” to renege on its commitment for a permanent solution to the public
food stockholding issue at the ongoing ministerial conference of the World
Trade Organisation (WTO). An official release issued however did not identify the
major member country though it is well known in trade circles that it is the
United States of America.
India’s attempts to find a permanent solution to the food stockpile issue
at the 11th edition of the ministerial conference (MC11), has hit a roadblock
as the United States refused to engage, threatening a successful conclusion of
the four-day conference.
Without naming the US, an official statement said, “India is surprised and
deeply disappointed that despite an overwhelming majority of members
reiterating it, a major member country has reneged on a commitment made two
years ago to deliver a solution of critical importance for addressing hunger in
some of the poorest countries of the world.”
A major country stated categorically that they cannot agree to any
permanent solution on the public stockholding at MC11. This has posed a severe
threat to a successful conclusion of the conference as there was a ministerial
for mandate for a permanent solution by the MC11,” it said.
The ministerial conference is the highest decision-making body of the WTO.
The Indian team led by Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, in
cooperation with the G33 grouping, has been pitching hard for permanent
solution to food security issue as it is crucial for livelihood of 800 million
people across the globe. The ministerial conference which began on December 10th,
comes to a close on December 13th.
We need to clarify our understanding of development within the WTO. We
cannot sustain a situation in which new rules can only apply to a few and that
others will be given a pass in the name of self-proclaimed development status,”
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had said in his remarks at the
The non-fulfillments of a mandate flowing from a ministerial decision at
Nairobi could “irreversibly” damage the credibility of the WTO, it added.
India, however, will continue to participate in the efforts to draft a credible
The effort, the release said, would be to ensure that declaration reaffirms
the principles of the multilateral trading system, commits to completion of the
Doha Development Agenda, and maintains centrality of development and
availability of special and differential treatment to developing countries.
India, it added, has been participating in MC11 in good faith in the spirit
of constructive engagement and tried its best to engage with Members in all
We have been proponents in several areas of work in the WTO including
public stockholding for food security purposes, agricultural Special Safeguard Mechanism,
agricultural domestic support and e-commerce. We are committed to preserving
and promoting the WTO and the multilateral trading system with a view to take
the agreed agenda of the WTO forward,” it added.
India’s coalition partners, the release said, have remained steadfast in
their support not only for a permanent solution on public stockholding but also
on other issues of interest to developing countries.
The country had the support of over a 100 WTO member countries on all
agriculture issues including proposal to set the direction of agriculture
reforms by first eliminating the most trade-distorting form of subsidies used
mainly by the rich developed countries.
The 53-member African Group as well as a large number of developing
countries too have rallied around and firmly supported India in opposing rules
on e-commerce and bringing in new issues such as investment facilitation and
MSMEs into the WTO’s agenda, it added.
Under the global trade norms, a WTO member country’s food subsidy bill
should not breach the limit of 10% of the value of production based on the
reference price of 1986-88.
Apprehending that full implementation of food security programme may result
in breach of the WTO cap, India has been seeking amendments in the formula to
calculate the food subsidy cap.
As an interim measure, the WTO members at the Bali ministerial meeting in
December 2013 had agreed to put in place a mechanism popularly called the Peace
Clause and committed to negotiate an agreement for permanent solution at MC11
in Buenos Aires.
Under the Peace Clause, WTO members agreed to refrain from challenging any
breach in prescribe ceiling by a developing nation at the dispute settlement
forum of the WTO. This clause will be there till a permanent solution is found
to the food stockpiling issue.