Saturday, Oct 25, 2014

India stays firm on food security, blocks WTO trade deal

WWTO “We have not been able to find a solution that would allow us to bridge that gap. We tried everything we could," said WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo.
ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Posted: August 1, 2014 9:26 pm

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) failed to clinch a trade facilitation deal within the scheduled deadline that expired on Thursday, with India refusing to relent on its demand for a concrete assurance on food security and stockpiling.

Informing the WTO members in Geneva of the developments just two hours before the deadline got over, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said, “We have not been able to find a solution that would allow us to bridge that gap. We tried everything we could. But it has not proved possible. The fact that we do not have a conclusion means that we are entering a new phase in our work — a phase which strikes me as being full of uncertainties.”

However, going forward, Azevedo said he would be “travelling and talking” to members during the month to get their views on the present situation and the way forward. WTO diplomats will go on summer break in August and will meet again in September.

“When everyone is back in Geneva, I will be asking the chairs of the negotiating groups and the regular bodies to consult with members on what can be done in these changed circumstances. As I have indicated, I will be doing the same under my own authority — I will be talking to members and to the chairs and will report back to you all in due course,” he said.

On Thursday, the WTO trade facilitation agreement — the customs deal which would reform and standardise the procedures across — could not be ratified as India vetoed the deal, asking the WTO members to implement the TFA “only as part of a single undertaking including the permanent solution on food security.” Amid mounting pressure from developed nations, New Delhi had suggested establishing an institutional mechanism for finding a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security by December 31, 2014.

Although Azevedo said the failure of the talks is likely to have significant consequences, a Commerce Ministry official in New Delhi said the July 31 deadline is not tantamount to collapse of the talks but merely a “delay” and should not have any ramifications for the Bali package as a whole.

“We are ready to work from day one, as soon as the summer break is over. We have given our proposal and the process and our position is firm, our commitment to TFA is firm. We are saying that TFA and food security should pass muster together,” the official said.

Azevedo had said that while major economies will have “other options open to them”, the smaller and more vulnerable economies are at risk of being left behind.

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