In a stern message, India has told the UN General Assembly that developing countries must have the freedom to use food reserves to feed the poor “without the threat of sanctions” and a permanent solution on food security with necessary changes in WTO rules is a must.
“The issue of food security is central to the pursuit of poverty eradication and sustainable development in developing countries and must be treated with the same urgency as other issues, if not more,” Counsellor in the Indian Mission to the UN Amit Narang said in a UN General Assembly session on ‘Macroeconomic Policy Questions: International Trade and Development’.
He termed as “paradoxical” that just as the international community is assigning a high priority to food security as part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda there seems reluctance in addressing the important issue as part of global trade rules.
“A permanent solution on food security with necessary changes in WTO rules, if required, is a must and cannot be kicked down the road,” Narang said.
He said that India had participated actively and “in good faith” in the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Bali in December 2013 and the country remains committed to the Bali decisions, including the one on trade facilitation.
“India is a signatory to all the Bali decisions and has no intention of going back on them.
The concern that India has been constrained to flag, arises from the uneven progress on the Bali decisions,” Narang said.
“While all focus seems to be on the agreement on trade facilitation, the same sort of commitment is not evident on other Bali decisions, in particular the agreement on food security,” he said.
Narang stressed that the issue of food security must be taken forward in the WTO in the same time frame as other decisions taken in Bali such as trade facilitation.
“Overall balance is important even in a limited package of outcomes. The Bali outcomes were negotiated as a package and must be concluded as such,” he said, adding that “developing countries such as India must have the freedom to use food reserves to feed their poor without the threat of sanctions.”
He expressed hope that the international community will join hands for the implementation of the Bali decisions in a balanced manner and as a single undertaking.
He said that India has stressed that trade and investment and an open, rules-based, transparent and non-discriminatory WTO-based trading system can play an important role in restoring global growth.
“As we collectively deliberate on the contours of a Post-2015 Development Agenda, it is time we unleash the full potential of international trade as an engine for growth and tool for sustainable development,” he added.
He underscored that strengthening the rules-based multilateral trading regime under WTO is vital and the recent trend of increasing fragmentation in favour of regional and ‘plurilateral’ processes is a challenge to the centrality and credibility of the multilateral trading system.
He stressed on the need to make the international trading regime more equitable and development-oriented in order for developing countries to truly benefit from international trade.
“India is a strong supporter of the multilateral trading system and is committed to the WTO, which is in the best interests of developing countries,” he said.
“What is needed is collective political will to effect timely corrections to imbalances in the working of the system and its rules to ensure that the WTO works impartially and fairly in the interest of all its members and not just a select few,” he said.
Noting that there is an urgent need to conclude the Doha Round as per its development mandate, Narang said the round is not about the perpetuation of structural flaws in global trade, especially in agriculture.
“This Round is also not about negotiating livelihood security and subsistence of hundreds of millions of farmers. Instead, this Round is about creating new opportunities and economic growth for developing countries in all sectors,” Narang said.
“This Round is about aiding the efforts of developing countries for providing food security to their people and ending poverty,” he said.
“Indeed the criticism about the Doha Development Round, that it is scarcely about ‘Development’ and is a round only in terms of its proclivity to go round and round in circles, needs to be addressed purposefully,” he added.
India has made it clear that it would stick to its position on the food security issue at the WTO as it is the sovereign duty of the government to protect the interest of its poor and that it would not ratify Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) until a permanent solution was found on the food security issue.
New Delhi has asked WTO to amend the norms for calculating agriculture subsidies so that India could continue to procure food grains from farmers at minimum support price and sell them to poor at cheaper rates without violating the norms.